Album Review: Switchfoot's 'Vice Verses'
Life is complicated. That’s not a new revelation, of course, but it’s the guiding theme on Switchfoot’s new album, the cleverly titled “Vice Verses,” out today.
For every blessing, as lead singer Jon Foreman sings on the gentle, contemplative title track, there are curses. While we’re busy navigating life’s land mines, there’s beauty and sorrow going on, usually simultaneously.
The album’s second track, the propulsive, psychedelic “The Original,” sounds quite unlike anything the band has ever done before. And maybe that’s the point of “Vice Verses.” The album is all over the map musically, touching on every corner of the rock spectrum.
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For example, there’s the Oasis-like “Where I Belong,” a mid-tempo tale of yearning about trying to make one’s way in a world where “this skin and bones is a rental.” Or on “Restless,” which sounds like a cut from O.A.R.’s 2008 album, “All Sides.”
There are hints of Lenny Kravitz in the opening of first single “Dark Horses,” Foreman out-Bonos the U2 frontman on “Blinding Light” and does his best Murray Head/”One Night In Bangkok” imitation in his intro to “Selling The News.”
While the melodies are often redolent of other acts, part of Switchfoot’s strengths, and an under-appreciated one at that, is its lyrics. The band has been at it for around 15 years now and has never been content to remain static. Its last studio album, 2009’s Grammy-winning “Hello Hurricane” signified a major shift in the band as it transitioned off of longtime home Columbia Records onto its own Atlantic Records-distributed imprint. With that seems to have come a newfound confidence to break out of old patterns.
There’s a faith that grounds “Vice Verses,” but it’s not a blind one by any means. As Foreman sings on the dramatic “Selling The News”: “Suspicion is the new religion.” On tune after tune on this solid, sturdy effort, there’s trenchant, but not overbearing, commentary on the crazy contradictions going on in the world. Foreman isn’t afraid to ask the questions we all wonder about: “Where is God in the earthquake/Where is God in the genocide?” But ultimately, as he concludes on the title track, “I know that there is meaning to it all/A little resurrection every time I fall.” And that may be the biggest contradiction of all.