By Alex Rice
Nada Surf’s fourth album, 2005’s The Weight is a Gift, is the sound of self-actualization. Marked by singer Matthew Caws’s wistful lyrical insight, this coming-of-age record was a hard-won triumph for the New York power-pop trio.
Caws and bandmates Daniel Lorca (bass) and Ira Elliot (drums) were briefly welcomed into the major label in-crowd upon the release of their debut full-length - 1996’s Ric Ocasek-helmed High/Low - thanks to the sarcastic spoken-word hit single “Popular” and the rest of the record’s jaunty guitar rock, which fit right in with the era’s commercial tendencies. That elevated social status was short-lived, though.
Not seeing a hit single on its 1998 follow-up, The Proximity Effect, Elektra Records tried to tack a couple covers onto its tracklisting. The band refused, so, although Proximity performed well in Europe, it wasn’t released stateside until two years later - on Nada Surf’s own imprint, the band having wrangled the rights from its former label.
After putting Nada Surf into the icebox and working day jobs for a few years, the trio re-emerged with Let Go in 2002. The third album’s whimsical indie pop re-defined the band’s sound, adding acoustic guitars where there were once raucous riffs and pushing Caws’s pristine vocal melodies to the front of the mix. “I’m just a happy kid, stuck with the heart of a sad punk,” he sings on the record’s second track, desperate to be freed from the jail of jadedness.
Weight opener “Concrete Bed” may not be that youth-restoring epiphany, but it does find Caws mapping out his way there. “To find someone you love, you’ve gotta be someone you love,” he postulates, a theme that carries through to the album’s biggest hit, the pensive torch song “Always Love.” “Hate will get you every time,” goes Nada Surf Mach II’s signature tune.
It’s during this revelatory LP’s second tune that Caws rises above the haze. “Maybe this weight was a gift,” he wonders during the bridge of its de-facto title track, the bouncy “Do It Again,” as Elliot’s stadium-sized drums thunder beneath him. “Like I had to see what I could lift.” The rest of The Weight is a Gift - from the slow-burning beauty of “Your Legs Grow” to the self-reflecting enlightenment of “In the Mirror” - unwraps like a heavy present, building with brick upon brick of adulthood realization. “Why do simple things take so many years?” Caws asks on the penultimate “Armies Walk.”
Well, it seems it’s not until your Weight is a Gift moment that you realize just how complex everything is. And, as the LP is the gold standard for the 21st century version of Nada Surf, that's also when you find out who you really are.
Bandbox is thrilled to offer the 15th anniversary edition of The Weight is a Gift on exclusive white vinyl, the first time it's been pressed on colored vinyl since 2005. It comes with a full-color, 16-page Nada Surf zine packed with band interviews, rare photos and more!