If I Had a Hi-Fi
Jul 08, 2010 Web Exclusive
On If I Had a Hi-Fi, Nada Surf accomplishes the rare feat of producing a covers album that won't just waste space on your CD shelf. In fact, the album wants for, rather demands, repeated listening. First off, Nada Surf has good taste-the New York indie veterans take on songs by Depeche Mode, Dwight Twilley, Kate Bush, Arthur Russell, The Go-Betweens, and the vastly underrated and under-recognized Bill Fox, among others. Secondly, the band has the chops to back it up. The album leads with the ringing guitars of Fox's "Electrocution," before being followed by a version of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence," which, in its success, sets the tone for the rest of the album. Almost unrecognizable yet retaining the Mode's haunting melodies, the song is centered by guitar, keyboard, and harmonious vocals that combine to dizzying effect, making the song soar into the ether instead of being weighed down by its pain. It may be as close to a perfect reinterpretation as one might hear and what all bands should shoot for when trying to put their own stamp on a classic.
The Go-Betweens' "Love Goes On!" is power pop gold, Bush's "Love and Anger" is as enchanting as the original, and Twilley's "You Were So Warm" should encourage all who don't have it to pick up a copy of Twilley's 1976 debut, Sincerely. A couple lesser-known gems are also given exposure: the heavenly "Bye Bye Beauté" by French songstress Coralie Clement, and the orchestral pop of "Evolution" by Spain's now-defunct Mercromina. The one misstep here might be with The Moody Blues' "Question," a terrific song that misses some of its mystical haze in Nada Surf's driving power pop presentation. But it's a minor complaint. While the vast majority of covers releases are terrible—either too experimental or overly staid—Nada Surf's tribute is a rousing success, paying homage while making the songs they cover distinctly their own. It's a feat that cannot be underestimated. (www.nadasurf.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 5/10