Review Summary: Originality shines through on some occasions, but possibly things would have turned out better had the band taken a bit more time.
Release date: December 26 2006
When alt-rockers Switchfoot released the studio album 'The Beautiful Letdown' in 2003, they were barely recognized across the globe. But within the next couple of months, they went booming up the charts with tracks such as Dare You To Move and Meant to Live. Two years later, they came up with 'Nothing Is Sound', regarded somewhat as a sophomore record to many.
With their sixth studio album 'Oh! Gravity', not only have Switchfoot proven that they are capable of continuosly pumping out top quality music, but also to venture into new, unexplored territories. Sure, 'Oh! Gravity' can never match 'The Beautiful Letdown' in terms of technicality as well as worldwide sales ('The Beautiful Letdown' went double platinum with a whopping 2.6 million copies sold), nor can it match 'Nothing Is Sound' from a edgier, more post-grunge point of view, but what it definitely has is more originality.
Lyrically, Switchfoot’s latest effort falls a little below compared to 'The Beautiful Letdown', which boasted quirky lines on songs such as Gone, amongst others. However, on the second single, "Awakening", Jon Foreman and his fellow surfers do manage to come up with a very meaningful chorus which can make you melt:
Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain,
Here we are now with our desperate youth and the pain,
Maybe it's called ambition, you've been talking in your sleep,
About a dream, we're awakening.
As mentioned before, 'Oh! Gravity' is mostly about new sounds. Perhaps tracks 5, 6 and 7 stand out from this perspective. "Circles" has a more dissonant approach, unlike Switchfoot’s previous material. Then there is "Amateur Lovers", which starts of almost Jet-style and ends with an interesting section of classic rock-style guitars and attempted ‘vocal percussion’ work by Jon Foreman. "Faust, Midas and Myself" is pretty impressive in its own way too, again, not sounding too conventional-Switchfoot.
Easy listening songs for the younger generation are aplenty on Oh! Gravity too. Tracks such as "American Dream", "Awakening", "Head Over Heels (In This Life)", and "Burn Out Bright" have pretty predictable and normal chord progressions, but remain great songs to sing along to. These more upbeat songs manage to consolidate Switchfoot’s slightly unusual approach towards this album.
On 'The Beautiful Letdown', Switchfoot started the album superbly, with Meant To Live kicking off things, whereas on 'Nothing Is Sound', Lonely Nation didn’t quite do justice as the opener. However, on 'Oh! Gravity', the title track is a splendid choice to get the listener aching for more. Switchfoot prove they are masters of the phrase ‘short and sweet’. "Oh! Gravity" only lasts a mere two and a half minutes, but it sure plays its role as the benchmark for a pretty satisfying next 11 tracks.
"Let Your Love Be Strong" is a simple track which features mainly acoustic guitar and a strangely out-of-tune Jon Foreman when singing in the lower register. Now this is one track which may seem to end midway through, before it picks up again with the introduction of new sounds, such as strings and the drums. Unfortunately, it isn’t strong enough to end what is an interesting, but not quite gripping enough record by the Grammy-nominated quintet from San Diego.
Maybe Switchfoot rushed things a little. Perhaps they could have taken an extra few months for songwriting. All in all though, no one can deny the fact what this band can do, and one can only sit back and wonder what they’ll come up with come fall this year.