Released right in the middle of the 90s, it always seemed to me that Nada Surf provided the link between the sounds of grunge, the nerd-rock of bands like Weezer and the smart art-rock of Sonic Youth and others. This despite their first single being a huge anthem to the downside of being the coolest kid at school with Popular.
Unfortunately, while High/Low has travelled the years very well and more recently has achieved recognition as a defining piece of music, this was a long time coming. It didn't help that the band, full of promise, were completely hobbled by a relentless record company, Elektra, looking for a follow-up hit. When the band presented their second album, the record company basically turned their back on them, letting the album languish until they eventually dropped the band.
While the centre-piece of High/Low is undoubtedly the single, it is so different to the rest of the album, the way it sticks out from the rest of the album is a bit like a sore thumb (I imagine the band probably feel the same way about the song too). While there is not a dud track here, I particularly like Treehouse, The Plan, Sleep and the closer, Zen Brain. Definitely a Forgotten Gem for me, so...
VERDICT: TURN IT UP
Of course I remembered Popular but I hadn't heard any of the rest of the album before, and I was pleasantly surprised. Good fun, well put together, nice hooks - a shame the "long dark corridor" of the recording industry didn't treat them better.
But it got me thinking - wouldn't this be a great Glee episode? They could do all those school-type songs. How about adding in Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus and of course Smells Like Teen Spirit? Then I guess we'd have to have Rock and Roll High School and Beck's Loser. An episode about high school songs: an instant classic.
Anyway, I loved High/Low and I wasn't expecting to. Yay!
VERDICT: TURN IT UP
For more information go to http://www.nadasurf.com/