Review: Switchfoot, Noise Is Sound
The following is my first submission to Lee’s newspaper, “The Clarion”. Enjoy.
San Diego rock music never sounded this good. Oh wait, yes it has! It sounded much better two, four, and seven years ago. In Switchfoot’s latest full-length album, Nothing Is Sound, the San Diego rockers exude mere fragments of what we have always recognized exclusively in the band. Should we be angry? Should we be concerned? The answer is a resounding “No” and I’ll tell you why.
Since the transition from Sparrow to Columbia (Sony) Records in early 2003, Switchfoot has been touring hard, playing more than 400 shows in less than two years. Their worldwide (or should I say whirlwind?) tour included the US (twice over), Africa, and Australia. With no available studio time, the band members found themselves laying down tracks for their latest album in the short minutes before gigs, in bits and pieces, between performances with the help of some fancy-schmancy Apple notebooks and an electronic drum set, I might add.
It is safe to say the guys of Switchfoot, Jon and Tim Foreman, Chad Butler, Jerome Fontamillas, and Drew Shirley, are exhausted. Their weariness can be clearly heard in Jon’s lackluster vocals, gloomy lyrics, and restricted resources. While the album holds certain successes with “Stars”, “Happy is a Yuppie Word”, and “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine”, other songs like “The Blues”, “The Fatal Wound”, and “The Setting Sun” are repetitive and seem formulated. Jon’s voice breaks and he fails to reach those tonal peaks he has in the past. Despite the solid chorus of “Lonely Nation”, I was distracted by its murky lyrical content with verses like “We are the target market/ We set the corporate target”, only to be reiterated later in the enigmatic “Easier Than Love”.
Now before you start thinking I hold nothing but contempt for the album, understand that I am judging the record, not the band. I do not hold it against the members of Switchfoot as to why Nothing Is Sound sounds like nothing special to me. Jon Foreman is the same philosophical thinker with favorite words like “entropy” and “infinite” and he has by no means lost any of his talent. The album has catchy riffs and it’s great to sing (or scream) along to. But it is obvious that Nothing Is Sound is the quotient of an overwhelming schedule multiplied by limited means.
Jon is quoted on the band’s website saying, “I’m very proud of [Nothing Is Sound] and feel like this is better than anything we’ve done so far and yet I’m anxious to beat it.” I will echo this, emphasizing my own anxiousness for whatever is to come. But until that sixth release, my suggested antidote is several months surfing on the San Diego beaches, quality time with family, and hours spent in the Foreman’s basement writing a noteworthy followup.