Fading West by Switchfoot

Fading West by Switchfoot

 

Switchfoot used to be an underrated band with a knack for writing catchy alternative ballads. Anyone with even a casual interest in the modern rock scene should be able to name at least one of their pervasive crossover hits from the 2000s. However, following the amicable split with Columbia in 2007, the transition back to life as an indie band coincided with a change in the rock market, and slowly but surely the charting singles and radio airplay have dried up.

 

Don’t get me wrong: Hello Hurricane and Vice Verses remain the most mature and well-rounded albums they’ve ever written, but broad cultural influence no longer remains in their grasp. It may not be fair to correlate this stagnation in popularity with their departure from Sony Music, but for the sake of posterity it’s a neat demarcation between what will eventually come to be known as their second and third eras.

 

Approaching their twenty year anniversary, the San Diego-based five piece return with Fading West, their ninth studio recording to accompany the documentary film of the same name. While the lyrics are just as insightful and worth paying attention to as in previous releases, they’re coated in a certain neither-here-nor-there veneer of generic pop rock (with the obligatory dash of electro) that seems to be taking over every other successful turn-of-the-millennium band today, from Goo Goo Dolls to Jimmy Eat World. Cue the woah-oh-oh choruses and dated chord sequences.

 

TRACKLIST:
#1. Love Alone Is Worth The Fight 4:35
#2. Who We Are3:25
#3. When We Come Alive 3:36
#4. Say It Like You Mean It 3:53
#5. The World You Want 4:18
#6. Slipping Away 3:35
#7. Ba55 4:45
#8. Let It Out 3:17
#9. All Or Nothing At All 3:46
#10. Saltwater Heart 4:04
#11. Back To The Beginning Again 4:12

 

PERSONNEL:
Jonathan Foreman: Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Timothy Foreman: Bass
Chad Butler: Drums
Jerome Fontamillas: Rhythm Guitar, Keyboards
Drew Shirley: Lead Guitar

 

PRODUCER:
Switchfoot
Neal Avron

 

DATE OF RELEASE:
14th January, 2014

 

SINGLES:
Who We Are
Love Alone Is Worth The Fight

 

Who We Are is an interesting choice as a lead single: the off-kilter rhapsodic verses make for an intriguing combo with the power pop chorus. And follow-up Love Alone Is Worth The Fight is an introspective foray into what challenges we ought to be sacrificing everything for. Yet the pop anthem-y medium it is delivered in has already been so corrupted by endless odes to less noble pursuits, that it’s difficult to take the message seriously. Along with the likely third single When We Come Alive, the opening salvo is little more than underwhelming: a few bright spots here and there, but overall pretty bland and covering practically no new ground.

 

If these were intended as vehicles to rocket them up the charts, then they would have been more effective four or five years ago. Still, you can’t fault the boys for simplifying their traditional structure of complex and layered instrumentation for some more straightforward numbers which are easier to get across in the no-holds-barred live environment that they’ve become quite fond of.

 

I’m a little more pleased with the rough edges on Say Like You Mean It, which marks a continuation of their remarkable mastery of the post-grunge idea they’ve explored at length since obtaining label independence. But other tracks echo with the feeling of previous singles, unfortunately with none of the odd bits of experimentation that distinguished their forbears (Slipping Away, All Or Nothing). And there’s the oddly named Ba55, a half-baked composition that needs more work in order to advance it beyond a vaguely interesting bassline.

 

Another issue – although this is a problem the Californian outfit have always had to contend with – is that too many of their songs sound like fillers, even though they’ve got pretty solid writing with quite underrated verses throughout.

 

Saltwater Heart for instance, attempts valiantly to connect our Darwinian past with the seas in something resembling perceptive philosophy. At one point, Jon even goes “Now it’s an abstract thought / But I’ve been thinking nonstop / About the fact that my body’s made most out of raindrops / With a saltwater heart”, and you get your hopes up. Great! Let’s see how he reconciles his Christian values against a widely-accepted scientific theory. But Foreman sidesteps the issue entirely: the chorus is a generic mash of oceans and emotions and yet another one of those gratuitous woah-oh-ohs that listeners should be getting sick of by now.

 

On their best releases, the Californian outfit managed to (at the very least) leave you humming a few of their tunes for the rest of the week, regardless of how indifferent you may have been to their mix of introspection and opinion. Fading West has its moments, but is way too inconsistent to be considered the best that Switchfoot can come up with. A little disclaimer is in order here: the album might play out much differently in the context of the associated documentary film. As a standalone record though, it fails to really move you.

 

 

 

 

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