All of Switchfoot's Shadow may just prove their sunshine
Posted December 06, 2008
Not many artists can claim to be one of the most influential Christian rock groups as Swicthfoot has been for over a decade. And one reason is not many bands make it past over ten years which speaks to the longevity to the band and their ability to give fans top notch music every time a album out. Switchfoot journey to be one of the biggest stars of the Christian music industry even translated to success in the mainstream music industry which consists of a pair of top ten pop singles and having their music show up on more than a few motion pictures. Summing up all of this is Their Best Yet CD.
With five albums under their belt it’s always fun to watch how a band has progressed from their debut Legend of Chin to most recent Oh! Gravity. The lone song representing their first release is “concrete girl” which is one of the best on the album with a quirkily pop sound where the tune, Jon Forman’s vocals and the music is in constant flux, but the e song manages to not slip into chaos. Some may be surprised that that the title track from New Way to be Human missed the eighteen song cut but then again so did “we are one tonight” and “head over heels”. Similar to the style of “concrete girl”, “Company car” has moments of sheer genius but they are balanced out by an odd chorus and a messages that relays ‘I pass go, but oh, life’s taken it’s toll, /Have I won Monopoly, but forfeit my soul?’ among other things. “Only hope” is driven by a acoustic guitar with a violin coming in the background while the lyrics are a clear reference to God (‘And I lay my head back down,/And I lift my hands and pray to be only yours,… /I know now: you’re my only hope.’).
One of the title cuts that did make the Best Yet compilation was “Learning to Breathe” which doesn’t out shine some of Switchfoots big hits but has a consistent and solid pop rock tune. The song dwells on the slow movement toward becoming ones true self and coming to God although his name is never mentioned (‘I’m finding that you, and you alone, can break my fall, /I’m living again; awake and alive,/I’m dying to breathe in these abundant skies.’). The result of “Love is a movement” is not as obvious as “learning to breathe” but it implies that ‘Love is the movement,/Love is a revolution,/This is redemption,’ is a good thing. The song itself is a little loud and the rock music isn’t good enough because Forman has to extend his vocals far too much to add intensity to this average song.
Ignoring all previous creativity, all prior excellence, and earlier projection of the band Switchfoot, nothing could have anticipated the kind of success that the Beautiful Letdown had and it’s 2.6 million records sold which became double platinum. It’s probable that the CD was the band favorite because one third of the Best Yet is reserved for arguably their best album. The light weight rock “This is your life” challenge fans to look at their life and ask if was what they had in mind for themselves to the fan favorite simple light tock tune “dare you to move”. One of the most memorable guitar intros comes from “meant to live” which is used at ball backs to introduce teams more talented stars features big riffs to fuel a rough tune. But the lyrics are rather straight forward and meaningful We want more than this world's got to offer (‘We want more than the wars of our fathers/And everything inside screams for second life/We were meant to live for so much more’). The not so headliners are still considered to be great songs like the terrific ballad “on fire” the artistic “twenty four” (I'm singing 'Spirit take me up in arms with You'/You're raising the dead in me’) and the old school title track which could get harassed for its bumpy beat and annoying intro.
Switchfoot’s most artistic effort also ended up being their darkest in the bands biggest break the mainstream. What followed Nothing is Sound’s annoying and overplayed pop rock act “star’s (a song about a depressed man finding comfort in star gazing) is more depression than relief, pain without a cure, and questions without answers. One of only three songs represented on the album is Lonely Nation a rock tune early which drifts into hard rock in areas that has some tune inconsistency. The song declares that world is an empty, dark, cynical system, and ‘We are slaves of what we want’; a true statement but as before mentioned just more pain without answers. The song that contrasts negative and gloomy “the fatal wound” and “politicians”, "The shadow Proves the Sunshine" is one of the best songs written by Switchfoot or any other artist for that matter. The light pop music, which is like a ballad in some places, would be the perfect song for a good teenage television drama. The lyrics have their share gloominess as well (Oh, Lord, why did you forsake me?/Oh, Lord, don’t be far away’) but the song observes there must be a source of light to counter the worlds darkness and points to the source of that light.
Almost as if to counter the dreary release of Nothing is Sound is Oh! Gravity an album that is full of optimism; it’s just unfortunate that only three songs make the disc. One of the three is the title track an odd up beat rock tune, with an infectious chorus with some aggressive singing by Forman. The lyrics are the only eyebrow rising on the album with strange but obscure mentions of a liquor store and the backseat of a parked car but nothing edgier than that. One change that is visible from Legend on Chin to the more recent music by Switchfoot is the fact that the tune usually flows much better and tends to be less rough like in the case of the fast paced slick rock “awakening”. Still on some of the hooks and riff on “Dirty second hands” could have used a little finer tuning on the, at times awkward, rock tune; but it was interesting to hear the twang in the background of the song. From recent Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian film comes the latest Switchfoot hit to date “this is home” an emotional pop song that is rather artistic where the band states: ‘This is home/Now I'm finally/Where I belong’.
With a new album scheduled in March the point of the Best Of by Switchfoot is a little confusing. But critiquing the bottom line of the collection should be critiquing the band’s career so far and what to except to see in the future. Never a terribly spiritually vocal when it comes to the lyrics the band will continue to put out a few songs which will have fans scratching their heads but they will always stay true to writing song from a Biblical worldview. The music should follow suit like it always has.
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