It’s a safe bet that 25-ish years ago, when Nada Surf dropped their debut EP “Karmic” on No. 6 Records, even they never dreamed they’d be releasing their eighth full-length today. But although their strain of Beatles-Kinks power pop (which they do as well as anyone in the present tense) hasn’t been near the mainstream since the early 1990s, it’s also oddly imperishable, with a fiercely dedicated (if wizening) Big Star-Badfinger-Soft-Boys-worshipping cult following that shows up with the regularity and reliability of Stones diehards and Deadheads.
Of course, none of that would happen if they didn’t deliver the goods, and while “Never Not Together” is an album they could have dropped at any point in the last 20 years, it also continues to evolve their trademark formula: hooks and harmonies, heavy on the lilt, with chiming guitars, basher drumming and most of all, The Moment — that part of a song loosely analogous to dance music’s “drop”: a chorus or lyrical kicker or drum fill or interjection that results in fist pumps, waving hands and flying beverages. Great Moments in power pop include the “Hey-yay” on Tom Petty’s “The Waiting,” the “Way-ting!” on Matthew Sweet’s “I’ve Been Waiting” and the ecstatic “HAAY!” toward the end of the Replacements’ “I’ll Be You” — moments that inspire off-key singing and bad white-person dancing from people who usually know better. You’ll wait through a whole album for it, and somehow the waiting makes the payoff that much better — and not as good without it. (Nada Surf’s greatest previous Moment came on 2005’s “Always Love”: the exuberant “YEAH-heh!” on the chorus.)
There are many fine songs on “Never Not Together” — the single-worthy title track and “Something I Should Do” (the latter with a whizzing, Cars-like synth), the yearning “Just Wait,” the stately groove of the closing “Ride in the Unknown” and even a tune called “Mathilda,” lest anyone doubt their Kinks influence.
But The Moment doesn’t come until track six, “Looking for You,” and it’s a doozy: Halfway through the nursery-rhyme-like song, which opens with children singing, the band eases into a majestic chord progression that suddenly erupts into a massive, glorious chorus that they’re smart enough to ride for the next three minutes, milking it with a guitar solo and an unusual B-section before ending on an inconclusive chord, as if pausing before going on forever.
With more Moments like that, we’ll be writing about Nada Surf for another 24 years.
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