Switchfoot bores, switch CDs

Feb. 28, 2004, midnight | By Josh Gottlieb-Miller | 16 years, 10 months ago

Switchfoot, switch CDs

Well, they're not Creed, though mainstream Christian rock always seemed like an oxy-moron to me. It's really too bad that this is Switchfoot's (Distributor EMI Christian Music Publishing) most legitimate selling point. Yet The Beautiful Letdown might not be thoroughly bombastic. It might even feature crunching guitars and thoughtful lyrics and melodies that don't embarrass the listener. The Beautiful Letdown might not even be *gasp* a letdown. That still doesn't make it good, though.

While Switchfoot may lack an overwhelmingly Christian rock sentiment, that doesn't mean they don't preach. Spiritual longing is quite evident throughout, and though that alone is not a bad thing, the mediocre and annoyingly earnest nature through which it is demonstrated is increasingly tiresome.

The Beautiful Letdown does not disappoint for sheer musicianship, though it rarely rises above mediocre. Jon Foreman's guitar always hits its mark, and he shifts capably between the crunching avalanches of chords on "Meant To Live" to the wistfully rhythmic strum-along for the lackluster "Gone." Foreman is also a capable singer, even if a bit dramatic. Unfortunately, none of his band mates ever distinguish themselves. Tim Foreman's bass lines could be found on just about any other decent rock album you pick up, but he lacks innovation. Chad Butler's admittedly proficient drums are never explosive, and barely ever thundering enough. Jerome Fontamillas keyboards are barely noticeable.

While "Meant To Live" is a solid opener, Switchfoot never uses its momentum or picks up the pace. Instead of making any soulfully rocking songs, The Beautiful Letdown replicates its opener's passion-less, staid performance throughout. Switchfoot would have benefited from a lot less clean studio time, (which resulted in songs like "Ammunition" or "I Dare You To Move") and instead just pumping out something thoroughly human and full of emotion. Not anti-septic. Stale. Sterile.

Switchfoot's constantly serious demeanor would be less trying if their sincerity had a little intelligence behind it. Instead, the lyrics always look deeper than they are, while the almost-rhymes and thin pleas lack depth or narrative. The lyrics wouldn't be so problematic if the vocals hadn't been so prominently mixed, but apparently songwriter Jon Foreman thinks his songs have meaning. They do, just nothing worth further considering after the first time you hear it. Rather than straightforward, they just come off as simple. "Today will soon be gone, like yesterday is gone, like history is gone, the world keeps spinning on…you pretend like you're immortal. We are the infinite. We are the permanent…" Foreman sings on "Gone," but these are all meditations that branch into absurdity. Elsewhere, Foreman comes so close to real intelligent musings, but falling just short of that it's even more disappointing.

This all doesn't mean Switchfoot is bad, just that they're not good. Really, the melodies found on The Beautiful Letdown are more varied and thought-out than most lazy bands have done lately. Switchfoot's tireless effort to make good music is endearing, even if the professional playing is a bit stiff.

Ultimately, Switchfoot is entirely too earnest and passionless mediocre rock, and it's not going back in my CD player anytime soon.

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