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"Vice Verses" one of Switchfoot's best albums

  • By Job Ang
  • September 22, 2011

Almost two years ago, Switchfoot released a record born from the deep struggles of a band searching for its identity. That record, “Hello Hurricane,” went on to spawn two modern rock radio gems and garner the band’s first Grammy award.

Switchfoot has learned a lot from that tumultuous time in the studio, and now returns with a new sense of purpose on their eighth studio record, “Vice Verses.” This time around, the San Diego rock act is dealing from a position of strength. If “Hello Hurricane” was Switchfoot’s climb up the diving board ladder, “Vice Verses” is the jumping off point. The songs flow together as a cohesive unit, accurately portraying the polarity of life, namely, the highs and the lows.

Record starts off with solid melodies, lyrics

The record gets off to a roaring start with “Afterlife,” a combination of brash electric guitar crunch intermingled with Jon Foreman’s soaring vocal work. “I’ve tasted fire, I’m ready to come alive,” Jon Foreman sings, a likely reference to his band’s recent struggles. The song proceeds with the swagger of a band finally comfortable in its own skin, and the feeling continues throughout the rest of the album.

“The Original” is an homage to classic Motown records with the percussive, naturally soulful drum work from Chad Butler. His masterful usage of tambourines goes hand-in-hand with Tim Foreman’s punchy bass lines. Some of the band’s different and oftentimes hidden qualities shine through on this song. Typically earnest, Jon Foreman lets loose here with playful “c’mon now” yells and does his best to channel his inner Aretha Franklin with a falsetto “woo” before the final coda.

In contrast, “Restless” dials the mood down, calling to mind rain falling onto a windowsill. It’s a slow-burning, introspective song with poetic verses building towards a resigned but hopeful chorus. “I am restless, I run like the ocean to find your shore / looking for you,” Jon croons, a lyric pointing to the inherently human search for meaning in this life.

"Vice Verses" demonstrates band's confidence

The record ebbs and flows with meaning, and feels like a true Switchfoot record. They are confident in their talent, nearly masters at their craft, and always pushing the envelope further for fresh ideas. The rap-infused, slam poetry style of “Selling the News” is proof and evidence of that. Who would ever have thought they’d hear Jon Foreman rapping?

“Dark Horses,” the lead single off the record, is a no-holds-barred, straight up rock ‘n’ roll track, brimming with kinetic energy. It is a song that was written for homeless kids in the band’s hometown, whom they have championed for the past few years at their Bro-Am event in San Diego. It is sure to provide a universal anthem to many others who have experienced trials but used them as a springboard to get to higher places.

Triumphant close with "Where I Belong"

The sentimental “Souvenirs” and the full-throttle “Rise Above It” are also strong additions to the collection, but the heart and soul of the record is found at the end. The title track, “Vice Verses,” explores the themes of life and death, while “Where I Belong” is a triumphant close to the record. Melodic to the bone, this one will have listeners soaring heavenward with Arcade Fire-esque “whoas” and an achingly beautiful chorus where Jon Foreman sings “Until I die, I’ll sing these songs on the shores of Babylon / still looking for a home in a world where I belong.”

If the song “Vice Verses” was Solomon’s Ecclesiastes, “Where I Belong” is Stephen’s prayer before being stoned to death for his faith. As far as Switchfoot closing songs go, this may be the band’s greatest ever.

And that is the general consensus for the entire record. This very well could be one of their best works, nestling comfortably with “Nothing Is Sound” as one of the Switchfoot masterpieces. As a longtime fan of this band’s music, I’m hesitant to give the record a 5/5 only because of some minor issues, but it is a very excellent work all around and comes highly recommended.

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