If you were a teenager in the 2000’s, the indie rock explosion happened right before your eyes. From the “garage rock revival” at the hands of The White Stripes, Interpol, The Libertines, to the “internet boom” thanks to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Vampire Weekend & Arctic Monkeys, among others. At the core of this revolution were the mainstream “indie rock sweethearts”, which included bands like Death Cab for Cutie, The Strokes & The Killers, who took this underground and brought it to the world of Pitchfork and “The O.C.”
One of the bands who fell through the cracks of this explosion was Brooklyn all-stars Nada Surf. Some of you may know them for their 90’s summer quasi-anthem “Popular”, others for their contributions to various scenes of “The O.C.” and “How I Met Your Mother”, but for many, the name Nada Surf does not ring a bell. While it is unfair to say they were completed unappreciated (they have been around for 22 years, developing a devoted cult following and continuing to sell out shows regularly), they are nowhere close to the likes of Arcade Fire or Spoon in terms of popularity. B-Sides, the group’s first official B-side collection, gives older fans a deeper glimpse into what makes this band great, and will give new fans something to be proud of in due time.
B-Sides consists of songs dating back to the early 2000’s. The 15 tracks are split evenly between alternative versions of album songs and traditional B-sides. Included in these alternate versions are seven acoustic efforts, and an original take of an album track. Fans will be able to appreciate the different ways in which the band is able to manipulate the alternate versions, as they maintain a distinct feel from their full band counterparts. They are fresh versions of the original songs, which show in the band’s complex acoustic arrangements, vocal harmonies, and differing emotional aesthetics.
Aside from the alternate takes, B-Sides features a handful of outtakes and rarities from the group’s last four studio albums. The selection isn’t very deep here, as a good number of these tracks were released on the deluxe and/or European editions of their respective albums, so there is a chance you won’t find anything completely new on this release. That being said, a compilation of all of these tracks in one place is nothing to complain about, especially considering these tracks could’ve easily found their way onto one of the band’s studio albums.
These seven outtakes and rarities cover all of the band’s bases pretty well. From the straight indie rock thrills of “No Quick Fix”, to the punk sensibilities of “Everyone’s On Tour” and the emotional power behind “Fools”, the collection of songs on B-Sides is as dynamic as the band’s catalog itself. Each of these songs is up to the high standards the band set for themselves with their respective studio albums. Included among these gems are two French-language songs, “Au Fond Du Reve” & “Je T’Attendais”. Lead singer Matthew Caws, who is fluent in French, has shown off his language talents in the past (“La Pour Ca” off of 2003’s Let Go), so these additional forays into French indie rock are more than welcome, as they are up to the band’s standards, without a sense of pretension or self-indulgence.
It’s hard to fully appreciate this compilation if you aren’t an established Nada Surf fan. The collection of outtakes, rarities and acoustic cuts take a certain level of fandom to really take to heart. But, even if you haven’t picked up Let Go or Lucky, there is definitely something to like about B-Sides. It is tough to review B-side compilations like this, but despite its lack of formal cohesion, at its core, this compilation has 15 great songs on it, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you aren’t a fan, please take the time to listen to this band’s great discography. For fans however, B-Sides is truly a treat, and definitely worth picking up if you don’t already have these songs.