I can’t believe it’s been two decades since I first heard the angsty geek anthem "Popular." It was a song that was born out of irony; you knew the people that were singing along to every word weren’t the people described in the song. I was never going to be one of those people - the jock, the cheerleader, the brain. I was the basket case and Nada Surf found a way for me to feel triumphant in that fact.
Twenty years down the track and it feels that that the message is more prevalent than ever. The aptly titled You Know Who You Are shows a more mature side to the band, but the underlying fundamentals that exemplify the band are still there. They still offer up indie pop songs about wearing their hearts on their sleeves and getting lost in the abyss of their own minds.
Opening the record, "Cold To See Clear" is a powerful tune overflowing with optimism. An electric guitar is simply strummed underneath lead singer Mathew Caw's vocals as he sings about how hard it is to stay on track and achieve one's dreams. The high point comes in the verse as a pounding drum beat signals the musical skies to open up, the melody from the guitar comes pouring down and washing away any sorrows. The light and feathery vocals of Caw feels like warm sun against your face as he ponders, “What can I do but dream?"
"Believe You're Mine" is the first single released from the album and it sees us take a fast trip down the melancholy highway and straight to the heart. The lyrics are haunting and heartbreaking. “One day I’ll love somebody, one day I’ll take care of myself." It feels like a huge throwback to the 90s and is very reminiscent of bands such as Teenage Fanclub, Weezer and Buffalo Tom.
"New Bird" and "Out of the Dark" pick the pace up again. Both are boppy little tunes that will have you singing along and joining the dance floor. It’s important to note some of the guest musicians that got to play on these tracks. Legendary Joe McGinty (Psychedelic Furs, Ramones, Ronnie Spector) on keyboards and the incredible Martin Wenk (Calexico) who supplied some of his signature horn arrangements.
The album's title track is, unsurprisingly, a strong and confident number. Power pop chords dominate this track and it’s a refreshing new sound from the band. "Victory's Yours" closes out the album perfectly. It’s a bittersweet tune with the familiar love-them-or-leave-them attitude. Sometimes you have to look after the most important person - yourself.
You Know Who You Are feels like that comfortable band shirt that you bought 10 years ago and you always wonder if it will still fit. When you try it on, you'll be surprised at how comforting it is. The album is an easy listen. There isn’t anything overly complicated about Nada Surf's sound. It's endearingly simple and quite refreshing in that aspect. They play to their strengths and don’t try to be anyone they’re not. If you’re a fan you wont be disappointed.
You Know Who You Are is out on CD and digital formats on Friday March 4. Preorders are available now.