Trying to describe Switchfoot’s sound is a bit like trying to describe the taste of chocolate. What do you compare it to? It’s not quite caramel and not quite coffee. It stands alone.
So it is has been with Switchfoot. Their too-pop-for-punk/too-punk-for-pop sound has remained consistently unique through each of their albums. The Beautiful Letdown is no exception. Although it’s clear, from the very first chords, that this album is more aggressive sounding than Learning to Breathe, the music remains pure Switchfoot.
And that’s a good thing. The energy and hip sound of the band, combined with Jon Foreman’s short-on-religious-terminology, long-on-theology lyrics, have allowed the band to become both a Dove Award nominated Christian act and the darling of Hollywood. Their songs were featured prominently in the movie “A Walk to Remember” and have been played consistently on network television shows, including “Dawson’s Creek” and “Felicity.” With a general-market distribution deal with Columbia Records, The Beautiful Letdown is a turning point for the band and a chance to claim a wider audience.
Usually that means toning down the lyrical message or refocusing on human relationships. Switchfoot does refocus, but in a refreshing way. They begin asking questions, making us ponder complexities such as are we “meant for something more?” “Are you who you want to be?” Do you want to be “more than just OK?” They challenge both their new audience and seasoned fans to evaluate the quality of their lives and to wish for something more. This moment of realization that the world doesn’t have the answers is what Foreman aptly describes as the “beautiful letdown.” The lyrics capture the moment of epiphany: “It was a beautiful letdown / When you found me here / For once ? I see everything clear ? I don’t belong here.”
Woven throughout the album and delivered with Foreman’s quirky, yet passionate vocals are the answers to the questions posed. In the songs “Redemption” and “Twenty-Four,” Foreman is honest about his own personal failures and, despite them, the reality of his hope in Christ.
Switchfoot’s new album is far from a letdown, though it will hopefully lead many people to a beautiful one.
Copyright © 2004 Christian Music Planet, used with permission.
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