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Switchfoot - Nothing is Sound Print E-mail
Tuesday, 13 September 2005
performance 8
sound 8
released 2005

Switchfoot’s Nothing is Sound may be giving its members post-graduate stress rather than the anticipated, more familiar sophomore jinx, because this is actually the act’s fifth full-length CD. Some might not realize the group initially built up its following in the Christian marketplace. But its 2003 The Beautiful Letdown was simultaneously its Columbia debut and its commercial breakthrough. Chances are, if you enjoyed this San Diego band’s previous morals-inspired and philosophical work, you won’t be let down – so to speak – with this new release.
At first listen, nothing here is nearly as memorable as the single “Dare You to Move” from the previous album. But that’s not to say it isn’t a melodic and catchy disc. The first single, “Stars,” for instance, is nicely guitar-laden and finds singer Jonathan Foreman looking up to the sky to help get centered. Nature is a common thread throughout, as “Shadow Proves the Sunshine” also utilizes Earth’s elements to highlight this spiritual group’s overt reliance upon the divine.

This CD, although not metal nor a screamer, is nevertheless fairly hard-rocking at various points. Where “Politicians” is low and thundering, “Lonely Nation” begins this collection with a little righteous rock anger. Foreman rages against this modern world’s overwhelming commercial tide with lines like “We are the target market” and “We are slaves to what we want.” He’s also pissed about how sex and consumerism get indecipherably mingled together. In “Easier Than Love,” he announces “Sex is currency” at one point. Then he admits, “Everyone is scared to death of dying here alone.” On “Happy is a Yuppie Word” (a phrase he claims to have borrowed from the late Johnny Cash), he sings, “I want more than simple cash can buy.” Clearly, with lots of dough being spent by lots of people, Foreman doesn’t feel he’s getting his money’s worth.

When he shows his positive side (a rare occurrence), it’s usually while he’s singing about a girl. He begins the story of “Golden” by singing, “She’s just another so-and-so.” But one person’s so-and-so can be another one’s prize. “You are golden/You are golden child/Don’t let go/Don’t let go tonight,” he later encourages. The CD closes with “Daisy,” which tells the tale of yet another woman who is too good for this mean old world.

Switchfoot is a unique band: It may be comprised of Christians, but you never get the impression that you’re being preached at here. Instead, this group looks honestly at the troubles in today’s world, then makes its gospel message sound like an appealing alternative to it all.

On the surface, Switchfoot is a fairly straightforward rock band. Nevertheless, this group is made to sound bigger and fuller by the 5.1 Surround Sound mix included as part of the DualDisc. A great example of this advantageous approach is on the track “Politician,” which matches the percussion and vocals in the front with vocals and keyboard atmospherics in the back. This CD’s mix is so clear, astute listeners can begin to pick up on the musicians’ consistent playing styles after a while. For instance, drummer Chad Butler relies a whole lot on his snare drum to keep the beat. There are no future guitar heroes in Switchfoot. Instead, guitar variety is what particularly spices its life. There are many chunky guitar riffs, yet few solos. But the separation of the 5.1 mix brings out the gentle acoustic work that underlies much of this release. And little things, like hand-clapping rhythms and layered vocals, are also more readily apparent on this CD’s enhanced side.

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