Certain Songs #1226: Nada Surf – “When I Was Young”

Album: The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy
Year: 2012

After The Weight is a Gift, Nada Surf issueed a pair of really good records — 2008’s Lucky and 2010’s all-covers If I Had a Hi-Fi — before finally putting it all together for their best album, 2012’s The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy.

And while most of the songs are uptempo clarion calls like “Clear Eye Clouded Mind” and “Waiting For Something” — the dynamic pair that open the record — my favorite was the “When I Was Young,” which eschews tempo for a wistful beauty and a set of lyrics that are pretty fucking happy.

It’s amazing how much time love saves you at first
When you rediscover your reason to work
And your aimless dreaming has found a target and
You normalize and greet all function returned

That opening line is sung over a pair of interlocking acoustic guitar, swirling around each other, and you think, OK, it’s going to be a quiet one. And at first it is, but after a couple of verses, it starts building, the drums kicking in louder and louder, the guitars piling up, until it stops for a second, and over a just crunchy-enough guitar and a stately beat, Matthew Caws finally gets to the chorus:

When I was young
I didn’t know if I was better off asleep or up
Now I’ve grown up
I wonder what was that world I was dreaming of?
What was that world I was dreaming of?
What was that world I was dreaming of?

I just love the way he sings “what was that world I was dreaming of?” And while the music is really nothing you haven’t heard before — and is certainly the type of music I’ve written about about before and will write about again — I kinda love what Nada Surf is doing with it on this song. You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel in order to get somewhere different.

Near the end, there’s a long guitar solo by Doug Gillard, who you might recognize from Guided by Voices, that helps brings “When I Was Young” up another level as Caws sings the chorus one last time before the song slowly fades away.

“When I Was Young”

“When I Was Young” performed live in 2012

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Comments are closed.