REVIEW: SWITCHFOOT – VICE VERSES (2011)
The Christian alternative rockers Switchfoot from San Diego have been around for over ten years and show no signs of slowing down soon. They gathered fans in their niche of the Christian market with their first three records before finding crossover success with 2003’s The Beautiful Letdown. With the release of 2009’s Hello Hurricane and this year’s Vice Verses, they are proving they have staying power among the masses.
Step one of this proof, if you will, is “Afterlife.” Upbeat guitars crescendoing into a pounding rock anthem beg the listener to crank this tune at a high volume. This song continues Switchfoot’s popular existential explorations found in lyrics throughout their discography as Jon Foreman sings about wanting meaning in life now, and “not waiting for the afterlife.” “The Original” and “The War Inside” follow up as two arena-ready rock tracks sure to please both alternative fans and casual radio listeners.
The reverent, worshipful “Restless,” the first single targeted specifically at Christian radio gets the job done while standing out from most of the tween-level cheese dominating that market today (see Manic Drive’s video for “Halo” to see what I mean) with Foreman singing earnestly “I am restless, looking for You” to his Maker. The balance of the record ranges from the melancholy (“Souvenirs,” “Blinding Light”) to the quirky (the spoken verse “Selling the News”). Another highlight can be found in the single “Dark Horses,” currently ruling alternative rock radio. This upbeat anthem for the underprivileged is inspired by the homeless in and around San Diego, according to the band and musically carries a Foo Fighters-esque ambience.
The real capstone of the record is the final two tracks. This reminds me of when I was first digesting Jimmy Eat World’s Invented about a year ago. The title track in and of itself would have been great as an album closer, but the band decides to carry on the wave they already established and go out on a soaring note with a follow-up epic closer. Surprisingly, this seems neither indulgent nor redundant in both cases. “Vice Verses” is an acoustic track that would perhaps fit just as well on one of Jon Foreman’s solo EPs. Despite the somber tone the lyrics take at times, on the whole I find this track to be comforting to listen to. The epic “Where I Belong” follows, with soaring melodies and a mood that goes along with the band’s ambition to have this song be the closer of the last Switchfoot show ever. Listen and read the lyrics and you’ll see what I mean.
Switchfoot’s Vice Verses proves that the band has still got it. While the album is no game-changer for rock culture, it is sure to make the album of the year lists for many.