Nada Surf - The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy
On The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy frontman Matthew Caws still displays the evergreen youthfulness of his slightly high-pitched voice. But the lyrics have changed. Or have they? Is it instead that Nada Surf are no longer capable of sounding as genuine as they did when they first emerged on the scene by virtue of the fact that they have got older.
Normally, this is a proposition which I would seek to challenge. Even at my age, I can still look back to the sounds of my youth, to the lyrics of anger, frustration and despair which characterised my teenage years. Lyrical anthems to those times, such as the drawling "no future" of Johnny Rotten across God Save the Queen; the often bitter words of Stiff Little Fingers or the Adverts and the teenage angst of Meat Loaf's first album, or that quintessential teenage love song, "Teenage Kicks". I can even see the same emotions and feelings driving early Nirvana. But when a 45-year old Caws sings thus -
"You have the feeling/ Someone's listening/ Through everyone's overtalking./ We sit, we wait and we empty our plates/ Let's prove that this year something's coming"
On a song entitled "Teenage Dreams", then you have to wonder. I mean if Caws got this from his teenage son or daughter I could understand it, but no. This is a middle aged man singing about being a teenager. And it just does not work.
What are, in essence, a collection of good songs, musically, yet spoiled by some absurd lyrics. At times these are cringeworthy to the point of leaving you squirming with embarrassment, much like you do when David Brent turns up in a big bird costume at the office party. Even the best track on the album, "When I Was Young", is blighted by the curse of the wistful musings of someone trying to put himself back into the mind of himself twenty five years beforehand -
"It's amazing how much time love saves you at first/ When you rediscover your reason to work"
By this time you are left feeling that it is time for Caws to grow up and stop pondering the good old days.
If you are one of those fortunate few people who can shut out lyrics when listening to a song, then there is a strong probability that, if powerpop influenced indie rock is your thing, then you will love this album. But if you cannot but help delve into the meaning of the lyrics and not just the way they are put over, then this album will make you squirm in places. At times, Caws wallows in maudlin thoughts and melodramatic concepts. Far from being an album, perhaps as was intended, of looking back without regret, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy is full of regret and longing for something long past.
When I listen to the album I try to shut out the words. I am not good at it, and therefore really only appreciate this album when I find myself humming a melody from it. And there are some damn good melodies on here, otherwise this would be a crock of shit.
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