The Proximity Effect
Blessings often arrive in strange disguises. Nada Surf’s The Proximity Effect, originally slated for release in 1998 on then-label Elektra, follows their 1996 debut, High/Low, which spawned the ubiquitous novelty hit “Popular” (“The teenage guide to popularity“). When Elektra didn’t hear another “Popular” on The Proximity Effect, the band was unceremoniously kicked to the curb. Hindsight being 20/20, Nada Surf got lucky, because The Proximity Effect is way too indie rock to bear out the responsibilities that go with being on a major label.
While negotiating to regain ownership of the album, Nada Surf started their own label, recorded two new songs, and let the passage of time work in their interest. Surprisingly, after two years on the shelf, these mid-tempo rockers and memorable ballads sound fresh in today’s “anything goes” market. The disc kicks off with an energetic, feel-good blast called “Hyperspace” that recalls the Foo Fighters (the band Nada Surf most consistently resemble), with a little Sugar on top. “Firecracker” captures a compelling sense of urgency and “Bacardi” — one of the albums more commercially viable tunes — comes on as full-throttle grunge, but inexplicably slows down for the verses, becoming like a roller coaster, repeating in waves, up and down. In the introspective, sensitive-guy musings department, “Amateur” and “80 Windows” (sample lyric: “The moon is closer to the sun/than I am to anyone“) would be right at home soundtracking an episode of Dawson’s Creek.
The depth charge buried in the middle of The Proximity Effect is “Mother’s Day,” a potent anti-date-rape song whose menacing guitar riff and vivid, accusatory lyrics pack a timely emotional punch. Singer/guitarist Matthew Caws seems to directly address the rise of misogyny in rock/rap lyrics when he implores “What if they did that to your mother?/What if they did that to your sister?” Timing could make “Mother’s Day” the hit it wouldn’t have been two years ago.