Released: Sep 27, 2011
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label: Lowercase People Records/Atlantic
Number Of Tracks: 12
"Vice Verse"'s is San Diego natives, Switchfoot's, eighth and latest release. I wouldn't consider this the best Switchfoot album, but I am happy with it and it is worth purchasing.
takenthecannoli, on october 31, 2011 9 of 13 people found this review helpful
Sound: After Switchfoot's renewed success found in 2009's "Hello Hurricane", the expected followup, which fans have known about since that time, has been in question. Not only has its potential been under scrutiny, but its very existence has gone from single album to double album to potential live recording, and so on. From the debut "Legend Of Chin" to "Hurricane", the band has covered a plethora of sound. What could they possibly do to rekindle interest? These are the same questions asked after 2006 saw "Oh! Gravity".
With each release, the band has at least re-imagined, if not entirely re-invented, their sonic identity. The transition from "Learning To Breathe" to "The Beautiful Letdown" was notable, as was that from "Nothing Is Sound" to "Oh! Gravity". This trick only works so many times; could it save them once more? I personally have been very satisfied with the majority of Switchfoot's openers, from "Meant To Live" to "Needle And Haystack Life". As so few artists do, they seem to grasp the concept of drawing an audience into an album with a good opener. For "Vice Verses" (2011), this introduction is called "Afterlife".
This was a song well-known to fans of Switchfoot's live act, and has been part of their set for the past few months. It begins with a single chord, very similar to "Needle And Haystack Life", though notably darker. From the first note, then, there is a proposed relationship between this and the last release. Both "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back" open with the same ship, albeit in different fashion; thus, as the band has stated, "Vice Verses" is the brooding sequel to "Hello Hurricane". This in particular excited me. After all, my preferred recording by the band is arguably the darkest of all, 2005's "Nothing Is Sound". Combining the thrills of 2009's release with the contemplation of 2005's sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
However, after a grinding opener, "The Original" begins. This track has been compared to "Bullet Soul", another poppy guitar-driven tune from the previous release. This is more than fair; I saw many similarities. It's a good enough song on its own, but isn't anything fantastic. Not to mention that it furthers the similarities with "Hello Hurricane", which also followed its opener up with a guitar-driven wannabe single. This is another song known to attendees of the live shows, as is the following.
"The War Inside" was one of my personal favorites in a live setting, and, as in the case of "Afterlife", I was a bit afraid of it losing its power in the studio setting. Luckily, most of the punch is intact in each case. It also proudly announces the arrival of some new elements; something slightly more industrial than what we're used to from the band. This works perfectly with the darkness of the record.
"Restless" is another U2-ish emotional track, and it does its musical job well enough, though the lyrics are the real gem. Next is the first real letdown of the album, "Blinding Light". It's a lot of nonsense about the system mixed with a few interesting elements and an only somewhat-engaging chorus.
Don't get too excited; the next one will throw established fans for a loop. "Selling The News" opens with a short drumroll before singer Jon Foreman begins to rap. Granted, it's a rap he owns quite well. He isn't trying to be any particular rapper, and actually transitions very nicely into the chorus. Irritatingly, a few moments are just short of interesting. It's more talk about how evil the system is and all the same stuff we've been hearing for ages, even from Switchfoot. The same old message. Yes, it's an important one, but is it necessary? I will note that the bridge is actually quite powerful.
We're taken out of political blubbering for one of the most beautiful tracks the band has ever released. Somewhat Keane-ish, somewhat along the lines of "The Beautiful Letdown", "Thrive" is as close to perfect as Switchfoot gets on this record. This track embodies everything the band promised about an "open" feeling, bass-driven tracks, and everything of that sort. It's quite lovely.
The current single is "Dark Horses", which brings in the second half of the album with great urgency. But where it is powerful, it is also re-used. Haven't we heard this song before? "The Sound?" as in the case of "The Original", for as enjoyable as it may be, it feels a bit too familiar. Heavy guitar riff, raucous chorus, and so forth. "Souvenirs" is another somewhat weak track. Nostalgia, childhood love (of whatever kind), and all that. Perhaps a bit of looking back on the band itself. With "Rise Above It", the irritating political noise is finally over. As in the case of "Blinding Light" and "Selling The News", it addresses kids directly. Get a new gig, guys. Rise above it, etc.
"Thrive" isn't the only emotional high point of the record, of course. Somewhat reminiscent of "Oh! Gravity"'s "Let Your Love Be Strong", "Vice Verses" is primarily Jon and a guitar. Very atmospheric, very lyrically-driven and melodic, it's hard to beat an album closer like that. Of course, that doesn't mean they tried; on its heels is the triumphant "Where I Belong", the band's longest-running track to date. It does bring to mind my final complaint of the album's structure. Firstly, it's a bit similar to "Red Eyes" (the closer from "Hello Hurricane") in principle, but more importantly, its ending mirrors that of said track! As "Red Eyes" repeats the chorus from the album opener, so "Where I Belong" has a reprise from the second verse of "Afterlife". It sounds fantastic, but we've heard it done before. That phrase, actually, about sums up what I feel where this record is concerned.
I'm going to give the sound, structure, etc, a 7/10. I was terrified of "Selling The News" at first, but it's found its place. There are still far too many weak tracks, repeated tracks, political tracks, etc. Supposedly, it was supposed to bring the energy of the live act to the studio, but I doubt many of the less involved fans care or will notice. The deluxe version comes with a demo of "Dark Horses", which is horrendous, and a full live performance of "Hello Hurricane", which is actually very well-done. // 7
Lyrics: One area in which Switchfoot nearly always succeeds is the lyrical department. This is especially evident in "Restless", "Thrive", and "Vice Verses". Few lyricists of the day act as a better arbiter between music and audience than Foreman. He also does an excellent job of rousing the goosebumps during the louder tracks, both in writing and singing. I did notice an absence of screams in the majority of the record, which "Hello Hurricane" especially had sported in, quite literally, every other song. Here, it is only in "Afterlife", "The War Inside", and "Dark Horses", though there are a few "yeah"s here and there. The only real complaints I have are, as usual, the more preachy bits. "Every day, I choose my faith", "Age don't matter like race don't matter like place don't matter" and the like fall flat. No, this isn't a particularly preachy record, but lines of that sort have the potential to rip a fan right out of the listening experience. // 8
Overall Impression: Switchfoot delivered mostly what was expected. It modeled after "Hello Hurricane" with darker spots here and there, "Selling The News" was as uncomfortable as expected, "Where I Belong" copied "Red Eyes" to the letter, and so forth. Unlike their previous releases, however, this album has - gasp! - fillers. "Blinding Light" is a filler. "Rise Above It" is a filler. "The Original" is most definitely a filler. Apart from these, the record is entirely bearable. Some of it even ranks as the band's best work. Really, though, I would have been interested in hearing material akin to "The War Inside", "Thrive", "Vice Verses", and so. For as heavily as the open-space, bass-driven aspect was advertised, it was delivered only in small helpings. If they went all-out with "Selling The News", why not do so with the other tracks?
Therein lies my problem with songs like that - they are isolated incidents. If experimentation is the idea, why not go all-out? For all its bells and whistles, this album is still easily identifiable as a sequel to "Hello Hurricane". As far as I'm concerned, the only real experimentation the band has ever partaken in was that in "Nothing Is Sound". It was a road album, yet it sounds nothing like 2003's "The Beautiful Letdown". "Meant To Live" is nothing like "Lonely Nation", "Stars" isn't to be found before 2005, "Daisy" is utterly different from "Twenty-Four", and so on. I can't even draw this comparison between "Oh! Gravity" and "Hello Hurricane", as they are from entirely separate "eras" for the band. It's a given that they're radically different.
"Vice Verses" is not a bad album. If it had come two years earlier, I'd be wondering why in the world "this new album, 'Hello Hurricane', is so much like it". There are some shining moments, but there were some shining moments in "Oh! Gravity" and "Learning To Breathe" as well, which very well may rank as Switchfoot's least-engaging releases. Its only saving graces are the off tracks that actually fulfill the hype, and the more guitar-driven or else anthemic pieces. This still leaves "The Original", "Blinding Light", "Selling The News", "Souvenirs", and "Rise Above It" behind. For those counting, that's one song short of being half the record, and I'm still debating whether "Dark Horses" should fall into that category or not. // 7
SwitchFender, on october 18, 2011 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: This time around Switchfoot has mixed their sound up a bit, drawing from a number of sources for inspiration, sporting a variety of tracks, no two alike. At first I was a bit anxious to hear this album would draw from sources like, motown, funk, and hip-hop, but... It works! The band sought to build an album around bass and drums, and it shows. The rhythms and bass lines here are top-notch, not just filling up space but actually contributing to the music. don't worry though, the guitar that Switchfoot is known for is still there loud as ever, but this time around it works together with the rhythm section much more seamlessly. Pay close attention to the mixing and the variety of sounds on this album. No two songs are the same, and everything sounds crisp, clear and balanced - props to producer Neal Avron and executive producer Mike Elizondo. Musically this is Switchfoot's most impressive album to date. // 10
Lyrics: While not quite as complex as the lyrics displayed on "Nothing Is Sound", "Vice Verses" still features some of Switchfoot's best lyrics to date, continually proving that Switchfoot writes songs for "the thinking man". The lyrics here push this album farther in the direction of a concept album than ever before, featuring themes of polarity, (life/death, light/dark, truth/lies, etc.) from start to finish, and a lyrical reprise of the first track on the last track, tying this album together quite nicely. The messages here aren't entirely new though, songs about being yourself, and finding a sense of belonging aren't new territory for the band but the music is fresh and each song offers something new to previously discussed topics.
Jon Foreman steps out of his comfort zone to great success on "Vice Verses". Spoken word lyrics on songs like "The War Inside" and especially "Selling The News" prove the range of Foreman's abilities both as a singer and as a songwriter have not faltered over the years. Whether singing a ballad, or a heavy rock song, Foreman always hits the right mood with his singing. // 9
Overall Impression: "Vice Verses" for me stands right alongside "Nothing Is Sound" as the best Switchfoot Album yet. If Hello Hurricane is was worth a Grammy, this album should expect nothing less. It's Switchfoot with a fresh new twist! "Selling The News" is probably the most unique song on the album, representing the largest departure from Switchfoot's traditional style but the best song this album has to offer has got to be "Where I Belong". At nearly 7 minutes long, its Switchfoot's longest song ever, and yet it still ends to soon. Claps, gang vocals, atmospheric guitars, excellent backing vocals, and a huge dose of emotional satisfaction you don't often get from music. Overall, I love the variety this album has to offer. While bands like Green Day and Coldplay continue to sound largely the same from the first track to the last, Switchfoot proves they're not just a one-trick horse. If there's anything I hate about this album it could only be the use of a drum machine on "Thrive" while the bass kicks sound great, I just can't get excited about fake cymbals... Or claps... Whatever that sound is supposed. To be. Regardless, I will treasure this album and would not hesitate to replace it should it be lost. // 10
Switchfoot555, on september 29, 2011 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: "Vice Verse"'s is San Diego natives, Switchfoot's, eighth and latest release. This album has a mixture of techno and the sound Switchfoot released on Hello Hurricane as well as a bit of blues as heard on the second track "The Original" and a lot more of the Pop sound like on the track "The War Inside". Over the years, Switchfoot's sound has evolved dramatically and this new release changed even more becoming more Pop sounding than all the previous sounds which had put them in a league of their own. The slower songs, like "Restless", sound alot like something you would hear on 95.9 The Fish radio station. The more quicker paced songs have a fusion of Blues and the sound from Metric's albums more specifically their latest release "Fantasies". The songs on this album don't vary from each other in sound like the songs on all of the bands previous records. The song "Selling The News" is a new step for Switchfoot though. Jon Foreman speaks the lyrics instead of singing them and the chorus has a "Learning To Breathe" feel. Like the bands first record, "The Legend Of Chin", most the songs after the first couple are all slow, but like I mentioned before, they still sound similar together as well as sounding like songs heard on The Fish radio station. // 7
Lyrics: Once again, Jon Foreman attacks personal, life issues and the problem with society. A couple song titles in this album point back to lines in songs Foreman has previously released, such as "The War Inside" which is a line in "War In My Blood" which was a song on Foreman's compilation with Nickle Creeks front man Sean Walkins, Fiction Family. Another is "Where I Belong" which was a line in the song Switchfoot wrote for "The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian" soundtrack titled "This Is Home". None the less, Foreman's brilliance for lyrics still shine through is this album although lyrics aren't as hard hitting and brutal as they used to be. 80% of the songs are about past happenings and stories that can be pointed back to relationships of various kinds. I'm still quite impressed with what Foreman has to say despite the thematic changes. // 8
Overall Impression: I wouldn't consider this the best Switchfoot album, but I am happy with it and it is worth purchasing. The band has always had the ability to write brilliant songs, but it sounds like the band is slowing down on the production of ideas. The album is more intimate album than a rock album like these records used to be, but this is all my opinion. I would best recommend that you, the reader, have a listen for yourself and be the judge. Everyone has different opinions and a different taste in music. Not saying to disregard this review but add to it. I personally put this album in the Preview before buying category. // 8