Enjoyable breezy, poppy americana.
The Nadas were formed in the mid-nineties by friends Mike Butterworth and Jason Walsmith while studying at the Iowa State University which is to be found to the north of the state capital Des Moines. For those of you who need to brush up on your American states, unfashionable Iowa is to the west of Chicago.
‘Come Along For The Ride’ is their twelfth studio album and starts very well with their energetic and catchy single ‘The Other Side Of The 45’ which is nicely driven along by power chords. It is their message for younger bands starting out, to go for it and be brave:
“So when they ask, just say yes, even if it seems frightening/ you gotta stand out in the rain if you’re gonna get touched by lightning”
It also shows their pride at having survived making music for all this time with Walsmith explaining “I guess it is intended to give ourselves a pat on the back while passing the torch”. The song contains the line “we’re all in the business of what’s been done before” and there are indeed no great surprises in their music. If you think of The Old 97s, The Long Ryders or The Jayhawks, you will be close to their breezy and slightly poppy americana. At times there are strong echoes, in a good way, of the power-pop of Fountains Of Wayne, formed at a similar time to them.
All songs are written by Butterworth, Walsmith and the producer Alex Denzen, who also contribute guitar and vocals. They follow a standard guitar/bass/drum format but with great melodies added in from the lead guitar and memorable chorus lines. Piano, keyboard and harmonies improve the sound. There are changes of pace with, for example, ‘All Fired Up’ and the song of a romance in Des Moines ‘18th And Center Street’ swinging along beautifully. ‘No Longer Apart’, with words addressed to a far-away lover, is a standout track with excellent guest vocals from their kids Emma Butterworth and Mitchell Walsmith, who had a hand in writing it.
Some lyrics are darker than you might expect considering the cheery music and this makes the album all the more interesting. ‘Recovering’ covers the hard times in life: “We have all been through/ some suffering” and ‘All Fired Up’ tells of the pep talk they needed to motivate themselves to get writing: “I’m all dog tired/working on waking up”.
‘Smashing The Squires’ is a mildly humourous take on the less glamorous side of the rock and roll lifestyle: “All night in the wrong way/ trying to sleep sitting up/ Can’t stop we’re gonna be late/eating noodles from a cup”. However, you get from it a strong feeling of their pleasure in having made it as, in their words, “a minor league, working-class rock and roll band”.
All in all, ‘Come Along For The Ride’ is really rather enjoyable.