If Nada Surf followed the expected narrative, the band would have broken up and become a footnote not long after scoring a novelty hit with “Popular” in 1996. Instead, the trio soldiered on, building an appreciative following around the great 2002 album Let Go, a pair of not-so-shabby follow-up albums, and winning live shows. At this point, “Popular” has become the footnote in the career of a band with a powerful pop sensibility and a knack for emotionally affecting songs.
Neither gift came out of nowhere, however, and If I Had A Hi-Fi finds Nada Surf paying tribute to its influences, which range from the expected (power-pop great Dwight Twilley, The Go-Betweens) to the surprising (Moody Blues, Kate Bush) to the obscure (a solo track from Bill Fox, frontman of Cleveland’s The Mice). It’s the best sort of covers album, reverent to the source material but not beholden to it. While Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence” offers some resistance, most the tracks here sound like Nada Surf songs, alternating jangle with power chords and powered by Matthew Caws’ resonant voice. It goes above and beyond the duty of filling the gap between original albums. And if it sends some Nada Surf fans out looking for Arthur Russell and Soft Pack albums, all the better.