Even in 1996, Nada Surf's faux-Weezer smash "Popular" seemed too kitschy to be true, as though written just to spark ironic nostalgia on some future Rhino comp--Who Sucked Out the Feeling? Forgotten Hits of the 90s. The Proximity Effect, which went straight to the cutout bins, seemed a likely swan song, but four years and a curt "see ya" from Elektra later, they've reemerged with the quietly remarkable Let Go (Barsuk), which seems designed specifically to not bowl you over. It sidles up to you like that voice that urges you to call up old girlfriends while you're drunkenly leafing through high school yearbooks in your parents' basement at three in the morning. Anyone old enough to have dropped acid during the "Blizzard of 77" who's still calling himself a "Happy Kid" ("stuck with the heart of an old punk") has maturity issues, to say the least, but though singer and guitarist Matthew Caws isn't above playing cute ("Don't push me 'cause I'll fall in love") or pathetic ("My friends all left / Let's go anywhere") to attract a little female companionship, he does realize that "making out with people I hardly know or like" is as bad for his soul as "watching terrible TV." In short, he's "Treading Water" ("Always rushing / Always late"), and that mix of boredom and desperation is expertly captured in the rhythm, as an insistent guitar strum nudges the songs forward. Snatching prettiness from melancholy, the band kills time while waiting for the curtain not to rise on its second act. As midlife crises claim younger and younger victims, here's a testament to the notion that easing back from one-hit wonderdom to everyday life is a far more honorable fate than VH-1 will ever understand. Friday, October 3, 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.