I've been discovering Nada Surf backwards ever since being seduced by the crystalline guitar-pop of Let Go earlier this year. This is perhaps not the best way to go about it: opener 'Deeper Well' is a little rudimentary and bears scarce resemblance to the unselfconscious assurances of 'Blonde on Blonde', and the initial comparison is unfavourable. As an album in its own right, then, Hi/Low never quite takes off, and if like me you're coming to it retrospectively, it's difficult to avoid (unfairly) putting it in the context of the band's late-90's stylistic evolution. However, there are some decent tunes on here, and you can detect the germ of later greatness in songs like 'The Plan' and 'Stalemate', while 'Popular' is still a juvenile thrill to hear: a moodier re-working of Weezer's ' Sweater Song'. It's undoubtedly the quieter interludes on this album that best exhibit Nada Surf's latent greatness; the intro to 'Hollywood' is definitely getting there, but 'Zen Brain' hits the spot with unerring accuracy, coming out of nowhere to tug at your heart strings. All soft chord-work, elegant bass and plaintive vocals, it's a worthy cousin to later Surf classics like 'Bad Best Friend' and 'Inside of Love'. Strong finishing from Caws and Co. but, in the nicest possible way, 'High/Low' is still a gutsy, talented First Division contender to Let Go's swaggering Champions League outfit. Even so, I'd recomment buying it, for the sake of completing your collection, and for the sprinkled moments of magic. How about 'Throw away your crushes, all your childhood crutches' for a poignant line? Brilliant.