Vice Verses review by Switchfoot

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  • Released: Sep 27, 2011
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.3 Good
  • Users' score: 9.4 (32 votes)
Switchfoot: Vice Verses
5

Sound — 7
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.

Lyrics — 8
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.

Overall Impression — 7
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.

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

    transATL005
    Definitely not Switchfoot's best album. Blinding Light may be the worst song they have every recorded, and Selling the News doesn't live up to the hype. It relies on its passionless, recycled talk about the system to be its hook, not bothering to make the rest of the song worth noting. There are some great tracks (Restless, Thrive, Vice Verses) but there are just as many that don't live up to the standard I've set for the band. Either that or I've moved beyond them.
    Gerard Way Jr
    @hurricaneherman - If you disagree with my review, write your own. It's an opinion. Get over it. Switchfoot's been using electronic features since they hit mainstream. "The Beautiful Letdown?" "This is Your Life?" Hello? "Most Switchfoot lovers?" That's not who I'm writing to. Most Switchfoot lovers accept whatever they're given. The formulas for HH and VV are almost identical, beginning to end. They even use identical curves.
    hurricaneherman
    If you're not writing to people who listen to Switchfoot who are you writing to? That's a serious question not sarcasm. I wasn't really talking about the electronic sound as much as the techno bass drum beat thingy.I did exaggerate a little on my last comment because I wrote it right after reading your review and I was kinda stirred up. I'm sorry for that. They did kinda copy their pattern but that's what makes Switchfoot so great. They keep the same foundation with a new shell around it. You must understand why was kinda attacking in my comment because you attacked me in yours but we can get past this. It's ridiculous for us to keep arguing over such a small matter. Please forgive my last comment.
    transATL005
    hurricaneherman wrote: If you're not writing to people who listen to Switchfoot who are you writing to? That's a serious question not sarcasm.
    Why would you write to people who already listen to Switchfoot? They're going to buy the album already, they don't need a review to influence that decision.
    Gerard Way Jr
    transATL005 wrote: Definitely not Switchfoot's best album. Blinding Light may be the worst song they have every recorded, and Selling the News doesn't live up to the hype. It relies on its passionless, recycled talk about the system to be its hook, not bothering to make the rest of the song worth noting. There are some great tracks (Restless, Thrive, Vice Verses) but there are just as many that don't live up to the standard I've set for the band. Either that or I've moved beyond them.
    Excellent assessment.
    transATL005 wrote: hurricaneherman wrote: If you're not writing to people who listen to Switchfoot who are you writing to? That's a serious question not sarcasm. Why would you write to people who already listen to Switchfoot? They're going to buy the album already, they don't need a review to influence that decision.
    Seconded.
    hurricaneherman
    Switchfoot's band members are christian, they write about their beliefs, but they do no t label their music Christian Rock because they don't believe Christian is a genre. With that aside time to talk about the review. You got that line wrong it's "Everyday I choose my fate" and what would be so bad if HE chose HIS faith. Your favorite song Thrive I would have to say is my least favorite due to the drum machine. If that's the kind of music you like why do you listen to Switchfoot? And last of all this album did not repeat Hello Hurricane, it sounds totally different. Sorry but I don't think this review is accurate for most Switchfoot lovers.
    sg4ever
    See, I feel like this is one of their best albums in a way. They have so many stories and reflections of their heart and soul in the music, and they are seasoned. It doesn't come off as a "tired" seasoned either. Isn't music supposed to be a reflection of your stories and heart and soul??? Does it have be based off of only one or two opinions? I've been getting great vibes from this album ever since it came out.
    sovaso
    Switchfoot is awesome no matter what and i think its sad that people don't like them because they are christian. Christian music isn't all acoustic guitar and many bands that we all know and love have christians in them. Did you know that 3 Doors Down is a Rock band made up of christians? Switchfoot is awesome any way they play their music. On the Album, the music is amazing and the lyrics are great. Selling the news is bad and Souvenirs is not too great, but Rise Above It and Blinding light are Great! Riffs are better than ever (See Dark Horses and Rise Above It) also the Beats are great and Chords are cool. Whats not to like?
    dtduckfan
    I am positive that Switchfoot is indeed is a christian band despite what many think. Christian music is not all just boring worship songs. That's what I used to believe as well until I became more open-minded and did some additional searching. "Your love is a song" is one example. Though it may be suttle upon first listen, you might hint that the lyrics may be about something more than a girl. Also, the tune "The Beautiful Letdown" has christian-like qualities about it if you will. Biblically, in the beginning all was perfect then the fall of man, sin, etc. They are also sold in christian stores and it makes sense to me. All in all, Love Switchfoot and Vice Verses though not quite as much as Hello Hurricane.
    AntarcticMagpie
    @dtduckfan It's funny, because it's obvious to me that at least a quarter of their songs are viewed directly through a Christian lens. For example, "The Beautiful Letdown" is a recognition of how chasing material or worldly possessions and desires will eventually lead nowhere; "it was a beautiful letdown/ the day I learned/ that all the riches this world had to offer me/ would never do". "Learning to Breathe" is another one which is -in my view- impossible to see it as anything other than a "Christian" song. No matter what Jon or the rest of the band says, they will always be the Christian band who made it to mainstream (not that I hear any of their stuff on Aussie radio.....) That being said, "Hello Hurricane" marked a point where Switchfoot have tried to make music to appeal to non-Christians. In that sense, no, Vice Verses is not the follow-up to HH; yet at the same time, they are VERY similar sonicly. I liked VV, others didn't as much. Is it their best album? No, but I reckon it is well balanced.