Switchfoot
Vice Verses


2.0
poor

Review

by Caleb McAlpine USER (109 Reviews)
September 27th, 2011 | 104 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Switchfoot, minus everything good about Switchfoot

Honestly, Switchfoot never got the love they deserved during their prime years. Despite their huge and predictable popularity amongst the adolescent, sheltered Christians of the mid-2000s, the band’s easily recognisable (and ultimately stigmatic) anthems, such as the ubiquitous ‘Meant to Live’ and ‘Dare You to Move’, prompted more serious and ‘reputable’ music listeners to hold their stinking noses high in the air and lump the band in with the likes of Kutless and Skillet. That was a mistake. If you were to make a mixtape of Switchfoot’s best and most creative songs throughout their career, you would have a near perfect album - you’d have enough to convince any anti-Switchfoot supremacist to think of the underappreciated San Diego band in a totally different light. However, if you subbed that mixtape out for a copy of their newest effort, Vice Verses, well then,congratulations!: you’ve shot the band in the collective foot. Historically, Switchfoot is a band that has always experimented instrumentally and has not only coined one of the best ballads of the last decade (‘The Shadow Proves the Sunshine’) but they are a band that has also managed to branch out into full-onweird territory with Oh! Gravity. and Eastern Hymns for Western Shores without compromising their marketable and unmistakable Switchfoot-ness. Vice Verses, on the contrary, is everything that Switchfoot’s successes are not. It’s everything someone who’s only heard Switchfoot’s singles might expect a Switchfoot album to sound like: brash, adrenaline-laced and unbelievably hammy. And in the end, that’s what Vice Verses truly is - Switchfoot, minus everything good about Switchfoot.

It’s immediately obvious from opener ‘Afterlife’ and lead single ‘Dark Horses’ - the ambassadors of Vice Verses’ unspectacular tracklisting - that the album is perhaps the band’s most aggressive work to date. It’s not often that this aggression is ever convincing or thoughtfully constructed though. Nothing is Sound had its fair share of heavy riffs and tortured, wretching vocals but it was all in good tastefulness - Vice Verses goes balls-out with an array of gang vocals, heavy fuzzed-out power chorded riffs and the band’s best impression of a hyper-energetic rock band.

But there’s a lot of things Switchfoot haven’t done before onVice Verses and a bulk of it that Switchfoot still have yet to do well. A lot of songs feature a one-note, rapidy-delivered melody (i.e. ‘Rise Above It’, ‘The War Inside), most songs feature convincingly edgy, if uninventive, guitar lines and a few songs even feature genre-borders being crossed but it never quite crosses the line into being catchy or fun. The melodies just aren’t there. In the album’s strangest cut, ‘Selling the News’ starts with a Black Key-esque offbeat distorted bassline and tape-echoed guitar line that underscores Jon Foreman’s spoken-word/rap verses before entering a classic 90’s pop R&B chorus that you’d never once think to hear on a Switchfoot song - and while the theatrical, staccato shot bridge is pretty engaging, it’s hard to get over the sound of Foreman’s dramatic, spoken delivery. It’s not any help that Vice Verses seems to be overwrought with the need to inspire listeners: lyrical cuts like “I want to thrive, not just survive” on the The Beautiful Letdown-esque ballad of ‘Thrive’ and ‘The War Inside’s tacky “I get the feeling that we’re living in sci-fi, I get the feeling that our weapons are lo-fi” are cringe-worthy, at best. When Foreman sang “We were meant to live for so much more, have we lost ourselves?” all those years ago, it was equally hammy but the band had, at the very least, a solid hook to ham it up to. Now we’ve got spoken word choruses and Thousand Foot Krutch riffs.

But wasn’t it just a few years ago Jon Foreman treated us to his seasonal solo EPs, a collection of songs that proved the man possibly brilliant in any facet and an excellent songwriter to boot? Then how come only three songs on Vice Verses come close to resembling the same man who wrote us ‘The Cure for Pain’ and ‘Daisy’? It’s just the slow-burning but tastefully arranged ‘Souvenirs’, the calculated, anthemic build-up of ‘Where I Belong’ and the acoustic closer ‘Vice Verses’ that seem in any bit related to Foreman’s glory days. While the title track might actually be a fairly decent track underneath the gratuitous helping of reverb given to Foreman’s voice and ‘Where I Belong’ is a slightly standard U2-aping affair straight out of the books of The Beautiful Letdown, it’s the Anberlin-esque ‘Souvenirs’ that eventually ends up being the best track on Vice Verses. ‘Souvenirs’ is the kind of clever, pop-rock/indie song that the band can write - gentle but interesting clean guitar lines weave back and forth over eachother underneath climactic Coldplay climaxes and Foreman’s solid-as-ever melodic ear. It’s all a bit cliche but undeniably fun and moreso, undeniably catchy. It’s this ear for melody that is so sadly missing from Vice Verses - the song manages to have just as much energy as the rest of the album but it doesn’t compromise melody or quality to achieve its sound. And while ‘Restless’ provides a decent enough U2-style melodic climax and ‘Dark Horses’ has a fantastic pair of verses, ‘Souvenirs’ is really the only glimmer of hope we still have for that perfect Switchfoot album. It’s one of the best songs the band has written on one of the worst collection of songs the band has released. But thank goodness they included it: our worst fears - the complete and irreversible corruption of Switchfoot - are not realised and our hope remains. Until then, we Vice Verses as a reminder to listen to the Switchfoot of the yesteryear. Until then, we have one more Switchfoot album to pretend didn’t happen.



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user ratings (114)
Chart.
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
forlifeis (3.5)
Is Vice Verses the crowning achievement of Switchfoot's storied career? Possibly....

RisingSun (4)
Beautifully personal....

Austini (4.5)
It's pretty good if you don't expect them to be U2. Just kidding. Who's U2?...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Waior
September 27th 2011


11454 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

haha i didn't even think about the fact i had 99 reviews posting this

this sure is an anticlimatic sputnik milestone, ain't it!

RosaParks
September 27th 2011


14924 Comments


wow legendary 100th review

Waior
September 27th 2011


11454 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

now i feel bad for not writing something interesting

toxin.
September 27th 2011


12604 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Good review as always, Waior. This makes me sad since the previews of each songs I heard were pretty underwhelming. I have hope that this will still be good in spite of your review, but does this put a damper on the Anberlin/Switchfoot show the Tuesday in two weeks!

RosaParks
September 27th 2011


14924 Comments


your 100th should have been a 5 devil and god review explaining the effect it had on your life

Waior
September 27th 2011


11454 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i hold firm in thinking that their eastern hymns for western shores ep is their best work. and if it helps, many of these songs might benefit from a live treatment and if they favour their older works with crowds, it
should be a good show.

if all else fails, anberlin remains


Acanthus
September 27th 2011


9543 Comments


Well it was a good read

Digging: The Knife - Deep Cuts

Eko
September 27th 2011


2119 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

there's a lot I agree with and disagree with here. you hit on most of the flaws of the album but I think the majority of this is still good. glad you pointed out Souvenirs as a highlight, and the reverb on the title track, which takes away slightly from an incredible song. I was quite the switchfoot fanboy in my younger days and it carries over sometimes.

and how one can write a review of this album without mentioning Where I Belong is beyond me.

toxin.
September 27th 2011


12604 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I doubt they'll play their older songs, as they'll try to support the album by playing a good 5-6 songs (out of 13) at the minimum, if not like 8.
Anyways I generally like everything Switchfoot so I have a feeling this will be a 3 minimum.

Eko
September 27th 2011


2119 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

and eastern hymns for western shores is so sick wish it was a full length. nice 100th didnt notice that

Waior
September 27th 2011


11454 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

souvenirs is really so good. i wish the rest wasn't so gimmicky and more like that song

i just don't understand why after something like eastern hymns we should expect anything less from this band.

tiesthatbind
September 27th 2011


7375 Comments


I've been loving Nothing is Sound recently. Hello Hurricane was pretty boring so I'm guessing this is more of the same.

Eko
September 27th 2011


2119 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

seriously though Where I Belong practically validates the album as a whole

Waior
September 27th 2011


11454 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i think hello hurricane was more of a tired extension of switchfoot's basic sound, while this is kind of a tacky spin-off episode of switchfoot's grittier, sillier numbers

not quite more of the same but no more exciting and/or up to par

toxin.
September 27th 2011


12604 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm listening and "Souvenirs" is really freaking good. It's a shame you say the rest doesn't measure.
My friend (whose obsession with Switchfoot mirrors mine with Anberlin) also is rather disappointed by
the album. How unfortunate. (edit: Summary reminds me of Observer's Until We Have Faces (Red) summary
actually)

Eko
September 27th 2011


2119 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I think Hello Hurricane is one of their better albums

Waior
September 27th 2011


11454 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

observer's summary for that album mirrors my thoughts about this album actually

and where I belong is good, I edited it into the review but it's not spectacular tbh

and I can't understand the love for hello hurricane...

tiesthatbind
September 27th 2011


7375 Comments


Hello Hurricane is one of the most boring things I've ever listened to. I liked The Sound, but that's it. And I've generally liked what I've heard from these guys.

Waior
September 27th 2011


11454 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i need to make that switchfoot playlist

gonna be the best pop rock album there is

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 27th 2011


7311 Comments


Am disappointed to read about Switchfoot's latest demise, but can't say it wasn't entirely expected.

Also, good review Waior. Although part of me feels you really could have broken it up a bit more. Those three paragraphs are like huge Panzer tanks.



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