photo & text by nacrowe
i remember discovering the NYC-based INDIE ROCK / ALTERNATIVE ROCK band NADA SURF, like most people my age, on MTV's 120 MINUTES program while on summer vacation in NEW JERSEY after spending my first year with my family in NIGERIA. like ive written about before, that transition from growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA to living and going to school in WEST AFRICA was life-changing and really, if im honest, took decades to process. going through puberty at the time coupled with living abroad made me feel very SELF-CONSCIOUS and highly INSECURE about myself. being around distant EAST COAST cousins id never met before that first summer didnt help much either in that regard.
enter the "POPULAR" music video.
for me, my memories of the HIGH/LOW (ELEKTRA, 1996) album is the "POPULAR" music video, which centered around depictions of HEIGHTENED high school sexuality and lyrics which proposed that anyone could date everyone for a limited monthlong amount of time, resulting in no commitments, no strings attached, no emotional tethering and no suffering. in other words an impossible scenario. the endearing thing about the song and the video is that it straddles the line between irony and social commentary. lyrics that really hit me as a pre-teen included "my mom says im a catch, im popular" and "i'll never get caught, im popular." the song successfully mines that AWKWARD and BRUTAL manner in which high school is a DELICATE social balancing act further complicated by raging hormonal urges and ever-shifting, undefined BYZANTINE rules of engagement. the dating proposal basically parodies that very notion itself. in retrospect its a very WEIRD song that was nonetheless highly AFFECTING and sonically evoked my perennially INTROSPECTIVE and UNCONFIDENT experience of being a teenager. at the time i was coming to terms with the fact that the idea of "home" didnt really apply to me anymore. it was a shifting concept at best.
i feel bad only talking about that one song, but honestly it really had an impact on my psyche at the time. it was hard to watch because it cut that deep. in the 2000s i later rediscovered NADA SURF and their EXCELLENT albums LET GO (BARSUK, 2002) and THE WEIGHT IS A GIFT (BARSUK, 2005) which both blended a BUOYANT sense of melodicism with INSIGHTFUL, POIGNANT lyrics about getting older. those records, as well as later releases i know in much greater detail than their debut as i spent more time with them.
whats funny is that when DEER GOD started in earnest we decided on filming and editing videos for artists, including music videos and live performance videos. we shot an upcoming BROOKLYN-based INDIE ROCK band called POM POM SQUAD (performance video linked HERE) for a series of live performance videos at TRANS PECOS in QUEENS and MARKET HOTEL in BROOKLYN called OFF THE M (a reference to the M TRAIN that connects the two venues). anyway, that band ended up covering "POPULAR" and even had MATHEW CAWS from NADA SURF in their updated video (linked HERE). it was an interesting development that really felt like a bizarre full circle moment. a song that meant so much to me as a pre-teen being reimagined by the next generation of INDIE ROCK musicians.
anyway, my strong preference is for the later NADA SURF records, but their debut HIGH/LOW is a POTENT statement that stands up with their peers of the era including everyone from WEEZER, BLUR and VERUCA SALT to GUIDED BY VOICES and PAVEMENT. definitely worth checking out.