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Nada Surf - Never Not Together (Album Review)

Monday, 10 February 2020 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Annie Dressner

To record their new LP, New York rockers Nada Surf took themselves off to an isolated farm-based studio in Wales: Rockfield. Yes, the same Rockfield that achieved mythic status when Queen laid down Bohemian Rhapsody there 45 years ago. 

The Gallagher brothers later added their own legendary layer to the Monmouth studio’s story when a cricket bat made a fateful appearance during a typical sibling row while recording Oasis’s ‘(What's the Story) Morning Glory?’. So, choosing such a renowned studio could have backfired had ‘Never Not Together’ been a dud. It might have been forever lost within the history that has seeped into the walls before it.

‘Let Go’, Nada Surf’s 2002 album, was given a 15-year anniversary tour in 2017 and it was this that reinvigorated the three-piece (plus long-term collaborator Louie Lino), giving them another burst of energy to get working on their ninth studio album. Fortunately, this re-energising has ensured Rockfield’s latest delivery is a keeper.

It’s been said that the album focuses on the hyper-connected society we live in these days, and it’s a “humanistic vision of the world”. Something I Should Do takes this belief and runs with it during one of the album’s rockier moments, building social media observations on something akin to a Feeder riff. 

Frontman Matthew Caws’s spoken word section (which can’t help recall their ‘90s slacker anthem Popular) becomes a defining point on ‘Never Not Together’, because his ramblings sit at the centre of the album and follow on from several supremely catchy cuts. There are highlights after this point, but they’re different to what’s gone before, so the whole album seems to pivot on a moment that will either please or annoy.

For the early part, the songs are instantly accessible earworms that’ll take some shifting. Opener So Much Love goes straight into an upbeat scenario that begs for the oncoming of spring and Live, Learn and Forget does the same, largely through its repetitive chorus. As hugely enjoyable as these two tracks are, though, you wonder if their instant appeal will quickly wane. 

Sandwiched between the two, however, is Come Get Me, possibly the best track Nada Surf have ever recorded. Its mesmerising keyboard hook is an absolute joy, but the subject matter is anything but. Caws sings “I was always on my guard since I was a kid” and “there was no love in our home”, but this is a corker of a track that, in an ideal world, would be pumping out on radio stations for years.

The latter part of the album features, contrastingly, fewer instant hits and more attractions that sink in over time, although excellent closer Ride In The Unknown picks things up right at the death. Looking For You, a slower number where Caws sings, “I’m looking for that higher vibration” feels melancholy, but then halfway through strikes like an Anthony Joshua blow to the head, kicking on in exhilarating fashion. 

Mathilda, a six-minute journey, then tackles issues at home and school at a young age that inevitably shape you, in this instance name-calling and feeling different because of masculine expectations, but its excellent, pace-switching instrumental backdrop excels. So, all things considered, ‘Never Not Together’ won’t be developing Rockfield’s legendary status any further, but that’s OK. Instead, it’s another decent collection in Nada Surf’s increasingly worthwhile catalogue.

Nada Surf Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue February 25 2020 - CAMBRIDGE Junction 2
Thu March 12 2020 - LONDON Electric Ballroom
Fri March 13 2020 - MANCHESTER Manchester Academy 3
Sat March 14 2020 - DUBLIN Button Factory
Sun March 15 2020 - GLASGOW Saint Luke's

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