Back in the day, East Bay punkers AFI were probably more likely to win the lottery than to ever appear on MTV or in the pages of Rolling Stone. But times change, and as the band evolved through years of Warped Tours and small clubs, its brand of Misfits-influenced punk became more grandiose and anthem-like. When the members signed to Dreamworks Records last year, they brought with them an intensely loyal fan base, the likes of which major labels rarely see. AFI's newest album, Sing the Sorrow, produced by industry veterans Jerry Finn and Butch Vig, sounds like the album the band has always dreamed of making. Marrying goth, punk, and hardcore with surprisingly slick studio production, the record has been described by fellow Voices writer Brad Heffern as "the sound of massive armies fighting each other." AFI's live shows have become nothing short of an experience: masses of chanting, fist-pumping bodies always greet the band as the members detonate on stage, displaying a mastery of their craft that only their years of experience could afford. If you don't mind large venues, a few painted faces, and a little fascist-style chanting, this bud's for you.
Forever in our heads shall remain the songs of the days of yore. You know what I'm talking about. Those Top 10 alternative radio hits that were always catchysometimes painfullyand were overplayed on every adolescent's boom box back in eighth grade. "Tomorrow" by Silverchair, "Bound for the Floor" a.k.a. "The Copasetic Song" by Local H, and "El Scorcho" by Weezer all apply. Every now and then, it seems like a good idea to check up on those bands and see what they're up to. Okay, maybe I'm the only one who does that, but I swear that I would be a worse person if I hadn't given Local H another chance. Regardless, I decided to check up on Nada Surf, the NYC emo predecessors responsible for the MTV favorite pop rant "Popular," off of their second album High/Low in 1996. Unfortunately for them, the Weezer blue album was released right around the same time, and High/Low ended up at the bottom of the emo listener's play list, perhaps right under something by The Rentals. After four years, Nada Surf's shelf life may finally come to an end. Their third album Let Go is not only much better than anything Nada Surf, has ever done, but also much better than what most indie rock newcomers are passing off as music these days. The lyrics are smart without sounding snooty and poignant without being pathetic. The songwriting is cohesivefrom the acoustic prelude of the first track "Blizzard of 77" to the very last drumbeat of the closer "Paper Boats." After you check out the album and consequently hear the striking balance of soft and hard rock, you'll want to see them live. Lucky for you, they'll be playing the Metro on October 3 for 12 bucks with Ozma and The Reputation. Nada Surf is one of those rare bands that are listenable in both grade school and beyond.
-by Mara Stankiewicz and Mehan Jayasuria