"The Weight Is a Gift"
SAY HI TO YOUR MOM
Nine years ago, Nada Surf released a catchy song, "Popular," whose one-shot success nearly destroyed the band. Singer-guitarist Matthew Caws and his cohorts aren't going to make that mistake again: The most outgoing track on "The Weight Is a Gift," the New York indie-rock trio's fourth album, is a song whose refrain can't be played on broadcast radio or printed in The Washington Post. Appropriately, "Blankest Year" seems to be about the group's moment of fame. "I saw life turn into a TV show," Caws sings, "It was totally weird."
Elsewhere on the album, Nada Surf is brisk, tuneful and a tad platitudinous.
Co-produced by the band, engineer Louie Lino and Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla, "The Weight Is a Gift" counsels its listeners to choose love and accept responsibility. In "Do It Again," the song that provides the disc's title, Caws muses that the demands of a grown-up relationship were offered him "like I had to see what I could lift." Such sentiments occasionally tip the balance toward sappiness, but the threesome's buoyant melodies and spry arrangements always restore the equilibrium. When things get too heavy, Nada Surf can always return to the line that follows "Blankest Year's" unquotable one: "I'm gonna have a party."
Say Hi to Your Mom's third album, "Ferocious Mopes," also offers relationship advice, although much of it is of limited relevance. "Yeah, I'm Love With an Android" may not be helpful to listeners whose girlfriend doesn't "plug into the wall," and the romantic travails recounted in "Poor Pete Is a Bit Self Conscious" will be instructive only to guys who think they're vampires. It seems that Say Hi to Your Mom, who's actually a Brooklynite named Eric Elbogen, is a little self-conscious himself.
Recording at home with his computers, keyboards and guitar, Elbogen produces synth-driven pop that sounds far too clean and complex to be dismissed as "lo-fi." It's just his jokey lyrics that are a little thin.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Tuesday at the Black Cat with Army of Me.