Switchfoot "Vice Verses"
- Article by: Matt Dodson
- Posted: 09/22/2011
Ever since Jon Foreman’s chilled-out surfer voice “dared us to move” and told us we were “Meant to Live” on 2003’s The Beautiful Letdown, Switchfoot has been floating along the fringes of mainstream American rock.
After splitting with Columbia Records, their longtime record label in 2007, they recorded Hello Hurricane independently and released it in partnership with Atlantic Records in 2009. The album went on to earn the band its first ever Grammy Award and reenergize their vibrant fan base. Now, Switchfoot are back with their new album Vice Verses, set to hit stores Tuesday. Here, we give you a sneak peak play-by-play.
1 - Afterlife:
Vice Verses starts out loud and fast, with one of the hardest rocking guitar tones the band has ever used and vocals that sound like Nirvana on a surfboard. The chorus is classic Switchfoot, with an anthemic melody and heavy lyrics. The verses, with their uncharacteristic intensity, make “Afterlife” sound fresh enough to open the record on a good note.
2 – The Original:
“The Original” sounds a little too much like a Jet cover band. This is Switchfoot at its catchiest and most radio friendly, but it seems like a bit of a stretch here. It’s not bad, but where the opening track sounds fresh, this tune feels flat and awkward at times.
3 – The War Inside:
Returning to the heavier, darker sound of the opening track, “The War Inside” shows off some of the dark, electronic elements that have created so much buzz around the album. This is another departure from the typical Switchfoot sound, but this time it works effortlessly.
4 – Restless:
After the aggression of “The War Inside,” the album takes a chill pill on “Restless.” The lyrics are drenched in metaphor and meaning, and the band’s religious influences are at their best here, but the sound is a little bland at times. Though Jon Foreman’s philosophic and introspective writing is great, the focus on this song may be a little too lyric-heavy.
5 – Blinding Light:
“Blinding Light” has all of the hope and inspiration that I’ve come to expect from Switchfoot. The production is sick, starting with another dose of fuzzy guitars and driving drums and progressively adding choral BGVs and synthy strings to create another potential Switchfoot radio anthem.
6 – Selling the News:
Jon Foreman rapping? You bet! The band turns up the aggression again on this one, as the angry lyrics indict the media’s tendency to spin and twist news to fit its purpose. “Suspicion is a new religion,” Foreman sings in what very well may be his best lyrical feat released under the Switchfoot name.
7 – Thrive:
This song may be the darkest, most sincerely emotional moment on the album. The piano- and synth-driven groove, layered with ambient guitar, fits with the album’s departure from the band’s older material. This one is a must-listen.
8 – Dark Horses:
“Dark Horses” is a rebellious, anthemic and unsettled rock ‘n’ roll song about a generation rising up and making its voice heard. It’s no wonder that the band chose this song as its first single.
9 – Souvenirs:
After a handful of songs that reinforce the band’s new direction, “Souvenirs” sounds like it would fit in nicely on Switchfoot’s 2005 record Nothing is Sound. It gives the synthesizer a break for four minutes and focuses on the guitar-driven, insightful balladry that has made Switchfoot famous.
10 – Rise Above It:
Track 10 opens with a funky guitar riff reminiscent of early Red Hot Chili Peppers, and when Foreman’s vocals begin, half-rapped and half-sung, the influence is even clearer. Though it seems a little odd to think of Switchfoot playing funk rock, this song works way better than “The Original” and actually fits nicely with the overall feel of Vice Verses.
11 – Vice Verses:
The title track of the album clearly focuses again on the lyrics, which are saturated with existential philosophy and descriptive poetic imagery. “Vice Verses” is one of the best poems I have heard in a while, but I can’t imagine that the song will make it on the greatest hits.
12 – Where I Belong:
Just as “Afterlife,” the first track on Vice Verses, serves as an introduction for their newest (and most divergent) album, the last track neatly ties up the loose ends. Another lyrics-first song, it sums up all the themes and goals Vice Verses promotes as an album. The only problem here is that it’s nothing special musically and just sounds like another solid Switchfoot song.
Overall, Vice Verses is rock-solid, with some songs on par with Switchfoot’s best. “Dark Horses” is a perfect lead single for a band fresh off their first Grammy award and should make waves on rock radio. Inconsistent at times, the main hang-up with this album is that it may at times focus too heavily on the lyrics, sacrificing fresh sound and originality for showcasing Foreman’s stellar penmanship.
Still, Switchfoot has delivered another worthy album that should keep fans entertained and satisfied while it gains them a few new fans with its heavier, sharper-edged sound.