Album Review: Nada Surf – Never Not Together

By Live4ever - Posted on 18 Feb 2020 at 9:07am

Never Not Together

Nada Surf have always in some ways been an anachronistic bunch: taken from their third album, 2002’s Let Go, the single Hi-Speed Soul was a wall hugger’s take on dance music as a peacocking, hyper-morphed version of times past, the hedonists who light its fuse on a wasted journey to emptiness.

They’re also resilient though: Never Not Together is their ninth album since debuting almost twenty-five years ago. Much to their credit, in an era where traditional rock music of almost any stripe seems like it’s being hunted to extinction by indifference, they continue with a sympathetic formula that’s earned them a small but dedicated audience on both sides of the Atlantic.

The secret to modest success is often modesty itself, and this is a collection of songs that, whilst never threatening to break the band’s established early-noughties mould, are as diligently crafted as ever.

Opener So Much Love makes good on this promise of closeness, a proper Side One, Track One pop song boasting a gently coaxed piano and wavy harmonising that beckons the curious on towards an apparently open seam of rewarding listening.

That this collection doesn’t quite deliver it isn’t for a lack of trying: Never Not Together’s themes are about the inter connectedness of all human beings, and there’s a warmth – and resignation – to that on Come Get Me’s plea for finding someone to be with, while Live Learn And Forget is similarly comfortable but equally contour less.

Whilst integrity is something for the patient, it’s also a Nada Surf thing which they pile up ten deep on shelves made from solid empathy. On Just Wait they look at the struggle for independence and meaning for the younger millions growing up in a world where everyone is trying to invade their privacy, full of appropriately downcast tones. There’s a tenderness there, but Looking For You makes the view personal, a rumination on fate and place that begins with a choir and then over nearly six winding minutes ends up in a rock opera territory which seems as comfortable as it’s unfamiliar.

Caring, thinking and needing to be cared for are old school virtues, but every day they become somehow more difficult to articulate. Words more reflective of the times we live in are found on Mathilda, a reflection on sexuality and the systemic programming of gender in children: ‘Something makes me think someone wants to fight/ There’s a drive to quell what we hate in ourselves/If it’s in the Bible, then you know it’s old/And if it’s in nature, then it’s been foretold.’

Sincerity has never been a hustle and on Never Not Together we find Nada Surf more earnest and open than ever. It proves, however, that writing music that cuts through the junk of our modern cynicism but still thrills is much harder than it should be – and for all the worthiness of these songs, any sense of excitement here is fleeting.


Andy Peterson

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