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IfIHadAHiFi

Nada Surf + 3 EP

(Greyday / Latest Flame; US: 20 Sep 2011; UK: Import)

Reciprocity at Its Finest

In 2010, the alterna-rock group Nada Surf released a covers album called If I Had A Hi-Fi, which flattered a Milwaukee noise rock band by the same name so much that they decided to release the extended play up for discussion here – and it’s arguable if it’s actually an EP considering it runs nine songs deep – in honor of the former band. This wouldn’t be the first time that bands and albums have reciprocally swapped titles. In the 1990s, a Chicago band named Green named its album R.E.M. to pay respect to the group from which it took the LP’s moniker because, of course, the band R.E.M. had recorded and released a record in 1988 that they called Green. Then there is, of course, the fact that the West Coast experimental outfit Negativland released an EP called U2, sparking a lawsuit by that latter band’s record label, though it should be mentioned that U2 has never released any product with the Negativland moniker – so maybe that example doesn’t count. Anyway, if you want to go waaaay back to 1977, post punk rocker Nick Lowe entitled an EP Bowi, to pay tribute to the fact that David Bowie had released an album called Low. Think about it for a moment.


Well, it turns out from the evidence presented on the Nada Surf + 3 EP that Nada Surf and IfIHadAHiFi don’t have very much in common stylistically. The Milwaukee band reminds this reviewer a lot of the discordant, atonal squawk of mid-‘80s period Sonic Youth, just gussed up with more a punk flavor and loads of eardrum splintering sound effects: the sounds of a cat seemingly being strangled, voice samples lifted from the professional wrestling world of yore, and keyboards that sound like lasers turned to stun. Plus, the band displays a pretty amusing sense of humor in titling its songs, like the Los Campesinos!-flavored “We Fiddle, You Burn”, “All Hail Magnets”, “Arson, You Let Me Down”, and, my personal favorite, “Spy in the House of Fuck”. The group really makes you work to hear the melodies – they’re there, but they’re buried under slabs of grating noise – but, despite the sheer volume of IFIHadAHiFi’s sonic attack, there’s much to be taken by, especially the Neanderthal-esque, violent skin pounding by drummer DJ Hostettler, and deeply funky bass stabs.


At the end of the day, the Nada Surf + 3 EP isn’t an embarrassment to the former group, but it isn’t a homage either. IfIHadAHiFi simply craft black metallic sheets of out-of-tune punk rock that are engaging in same way that you might find a horrific fascination in passing a particularly nasty car wreck on the roadside. If that’s your kind of thing, the Nada Surf + 3 EP is well worth hunting down.

Rating:

Zachary Houle is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee for his short fiction, and the recipient of a writing arts grant from the City of Ottawa. He has had journalism published in SPIN magazine, The National Post (Canada), Canadian Business, and more. He also reviews books for bookwookie.ca.


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