Switchfoot hasn't let fans down since making it big with The Beautiful Letdown back in 2003. Although subsequent hit-filled and even GRAMMY-winning efforts haven't matched the multi-platinum sales of that "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move" era, the fun yet philosophical rock band's creative chemistry and contagious enthusiasm never seem to wane.
Vice Verses is proof positive; a jumbo jet of a record that has some serious thrust and at the same time can float along quite peacefully. To no one's surprise, the forthright socio-spiritual lyrics from front-man Jon Foreman are here again, carried by muscular arrangements that reveal musical influences from â 60s soul and â 70s rock to the alternative â 80s and grungy â 90s. But just as important to defining this album are some unexpected moments that are often among its best.
"Afterlife" is a this-is-Switchfoot opener, an anthem with gear-grinding riffs and a compelling question ("Why would I wait â til I die to come alive?") that alludes to the kingdom of God already being hereâ ”without saying anything nearly so preachy. Next up, playful stop-and-start bass punches and groovy drum fills give "The Original" some fine Jimi Hendrix "Fire" power.
Fresh changes arrive with "The War Inside," another big rock song for sure, but with a subtle electronic undercurrent plus a more rhythmic lilt to Foreman's vocal approach. This turns out to be a foreshadowing of "Selling the News," a political spoken word-meets-dance floor piece that could have been so cheesy in the wrong hands but turns out to be a new high for the band.
In what may become an election year favorite, the singer-turned-pundit emcee declares: "I want to believe you but everything here's in between / the fact is fiction / Suspicion is the new religion."
Anyone who followed Switchfoot in its early pop trio days will dig the tight, Police-influenced "Rise Above It." Similarly, the mellowed out, almost dreamy "Thrive" and stripped back, poetic title track could have fit on New Way to Be Human and Learning to Breathe respectively. It's nice to see that youthful vigor and love of melody hasn't been lost to being epic rockers.
That said, the Nirvana-like single "Dark Horses" stampedes with as much greatness as "Meant to Live" first did, and the soaring, soul-searching ballad "Restless" is as tastefully close to U2 as anyone could get.
Altogether, Vice Verses is what Switchfoot devotees are looking for.