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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Label: Credential/Atlantic Records
Time: 12 tracks / 49 minutes
For fans wondering what had happened to Switchfoot, fear not, for they have returned and have made maybe their best record to date. Since the release of their last disc "Oh Gravity", lead singer Jon Foreman has made four seasonal ep's and a folk-pop project with Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek. Though these releases were wonderful, they tended to be on the more introspective and quiet side. I was wondering if Switchfoot the band would follow in this vein. Well the guys from Southern California answer in one loud resounding no.
With the help of co-producer Mike Elizondo (Maroon 5, Rilo Kiley, Eminem), Switchfoot creates an album that will hold your attention and keep you moving. The guitars are crunchy and fuzzy and the drums are pounding. The sound ranges from the arena ready rockers with the call and response lyrics, to the anthems that will have the cell phones up in the air.
The lyrics are also some of Jon's strongest. He has always melded the feelings of desperation and hope well. On this disc, Foreman covers a wide range of emotions that we all encounter as we live our lives: love, trouble, failure, success, and hope. The lyrics, over the course of the twelve songs are not pretentious or heavy handed. However, they do not shy away from looking inward at our selves as being messed up and in need of redemption.
This is very evident in the song "Always", where Jon sings "These are the scars / deep in your heart / this is the place / you were born / this is the hole / where most of your soul / comes ripping outt". The song finishes with ""Hallelujah / I'm caving in / Hallelujah / I'm a wretched man / Hallelujah / Every breath is a second chance".
As someone who has followed the band's career I have to say this is probably their strongest and most consistent record. Hello Hurricane has become an instant favorite.
By Gar Saeger
Anticipation has been huge in advance of this release, given a Greatest Hits package to get us used to their best and Jon Foreman’s superb four Seasons EPs, together with some cryptic comments about how their sound would change now that they are independent of the major record label.
I’m still not sure whether this release is full of almost-anthems or almost full of anthems; but it’s certainly the sort of disc with the energy to get you flying if you’re already on the runway. Even on the first run-through you could tell that this would be a fast-grower. This selection seems to catch all of the various types of Switchfoot sound without being bi-polar. There are far fewer filler tracks, which ought to be the case, given that they recorded 80 and only have twelve here!
What a start! “Needle and Haystack girl” leaps from the starting block with the intention of winning the race. The energy on the chorus is almost palpable. The first single “Mess of Me” feels slightly angular in comparison.
Switchfoot’s evident enthusiasm for being more responsible for their own success shows across this disc. There are several other potential singles, easily spotted by their high singability. One is “Your Love is a Song,” which hardly uses an inventive chord sequence, but if it ain’t broke...
A couple of pieces push parts of the disc in a punkier direction, such as crunchy guitars of “The Sound,” which should get heads banging live, and “Bullet Soul”. The band leaves it to Mike Elizondo to produce these louder ones.
There are a couple of U2 influences. It’s almost Bono’s falsetto in the otherwise easy-going, no-frills “Enough to Let Me Go” (one of three that would fit easily Foreman’s solo stuff, if played acoustically) and the title track has a whole raft of Joshua Tree sonics, even if some of them do lie low in the mix. “Always” could be the love child of No Line on the Horizon and late Beatles.
For me the stand-out tracks are the stompy, expansive “Free” and “Sing it Out,” both of which show how there is often more power in slower pieces. The former has a strings sound that reminds me, in a non-Eastern way, of the backing to Led Zep’s “Kashmir.” The latter is a lighter-waver with strings, vocal treatments and Pink Floyd moments that builds slowly and surely. The haunting “Red Eyes” comes pretty close.
Themes are no great development for the band, with songs about the mess we’re in and Foreman’s trademark phrase “second chance” crops up again, the hope all offered without any forced lyrics. The title concept is about facing the storms of life with confidence and love, and that sustaining faith also comes out in the nicely understated “Yet,” with the line, “I’ll sing until my heart caves in, because you haven’t lost me yet.”
The usual touchstone question for any Switchfoot release is, ’Does it match or beat The Beautiful Letdown?’ It has a wider sonic palette, so misses the evenness of TBL that was only broken by “Ammunition,” but replaces it with a more mature, up-to-date and textured production, and a healthy dose of musical ambition. It’s a very close call, but this one might just win it.
[The version with DVD was not available for review].