Release Date: September 9th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- Fading West
- Against the Voices
- Skin and Bones
- What It Costs
- Slow Down My Heartbeat
- The Edge of the Earth
“…as a band that has been together this long, making a ninth record is such a rare thing, but I think that looking for inspiration and looking for hope and purpose and new ways to communicate is something that I hope inspires other people to do that in their own life, regardless of whether they surf or play music…”. With the hit song “Dare You To Move”, their mainstream crossover smash song “Meant To Live”, and the acoustic guitar led ballad “Only Hope” inclusive of being personal favourite songs of mine from their encouraging, vibrant and inspiring career thus far, as well as other highlights including “Mess Of Me”, “Your Love Is A Song”, “Restless”, “Always”, “This Is Your Life”, “This Is Home”, “Stars” and “We Are One Tonight”; San Diego quintet Switchfoot are probably one of my favourite rock bands over the past few years, alongside needtobreathe and Building 429. Vice Verses and Hello Hurricane have both broken into my personal favourite top ten albums of the years 2011 and 2009 respectively, and now the newest offering Fading West, a soundtrack to their surfing documentary that released earlier this year, for me is a highlight of their career as well. While this album may contain minimal rock that we’ve come to know and love, and contain more sweeping anthemic orchestral sounds, acoustic guitar driven pop tunes, and that aggressive British dance/pop sound that you’d probably expect from bands like Coldplay and Delirious?; it’s clear that this unique representation of their world tour, recorded in 2012 and 2013, packed in 45 minutes; is a pretty cool ride, and something us Switchfoot fans haven’t really heard before.
With such a quick turnaround between releases, this week Switchfoot unveil The Edge of the Earth: Unreleased Songs From The Film ‘Fading West’; a B-side 7 song project of sorts, but even then it’s not meant to sound like a B-side project. With these ‘songs that didn’t make the Fading West album’ sounda whole lot more mellow and more ‘serious’ than their full album counterparts, again it’s an enjoyable experience and a release that will have Switchfoot enthusiasts, inclusive on myself, jumping for joy as Jon Foreman shows us that the band’s best is yet to come. So…what are you waiting for? They’re Switchfoot, do you need anymore convincing?
Opening up the tracklist is “Fading West”, which would have been the title track if this upbeat acoustic guitar led track was on Fading West. As it stands, this happy go lucky, jovial track (the most upbeat and acoustic of the rest of the melodies) is the perfect opener for a new Switchfoot release! As the album starts off with hand claps and a driving electric guitar riff, pulsating drums kick in soon enough as Jon Foreman passionately sings about the west coast of America, and directs the song to his hometown of San Diego. While not an Christian song, this track fits in nicely thematically with the Fading West movie, as the band experience homesickness because of touring and making the film for a large portion of 2012. As the lyrics are sung fervently in the chorus that the band is ‘…heading back to the west coast where I’m from, I’m heading back to the left coast where I belong, California’s calling me back home, fading west with you…’, there’s a sense of sentimental nostalgia here, and this feel-good melody definitely serves to please, as I bob my head up and down- I am sure the tune will remind me of my home (earthly and eternal), when I am away on holidays!
The rest of the EP is slightly mellower than the opener. “Against The Voices” is where Jon and the gang delve into experimental and darker music (like a more laid back version of “The Sound”), with light electric guitar and a slow tempo. It’s also where the band speak about the devil telling us lies that we’re not good enough. The theme of voices (people around us, or thoughts in our head) telling us that we are not who God says we are, is pretty relevant and common- don’t we all have a day when we feel contrary to what the Bible says? When Jon belts out that the voices inside our head tell us to be someone else to fit in, I am confronted by a choice- to actively move into the promises of God despite the voices, or to just accept who I am based on the opinions of those around me. And hopefully I choose the former, as that is Switchfoot is encouraging us to walk into. “Skin and Bones” is another melancholy and reserved slow ballad, also driven by light electric guitar, and includes Jon surprisingly tackling extremely high notes. The band also highlight to us that all we are is skin and bones, yet identity questions are also asked in the 4 minute tune- such as who are we. It’s a question that even we as Christians grapple with every day, and Jon creates us a stirring in us as we actively ponder what it means to be a Christian living in this world.
With Jon having to pull out of the Fading West tour after the Australian leg in 2012, as his daughter Daisy was scheduled to be in hospital at that very moment for surgery (so in that moment, Jon made a decision to go home and support his immediate family); the moving and inspiring piano led ballad song “What It Costs”, led by Tim Foreman on vocals, was born. While Tim ardently and prayerfully outlines that when you love someone or something as much as life itself, you have to make hard sacrifices that may seem difficult in the short run, but no-brainers and satisfying in the long run; we are reminded us that ‘…you never know what’s real until it’s gone, love deals the currency of life, don’t ever forget what it costs…’; we are glimpsed into a harrowing point in Jon’s life yet the song gives off a calming effect as we know that a cry of desperation to God is prayed in the chorus. It’s clear these 5 friends are passionate for Jesus, and that is admirable and deserves great respect.
While the mid tempo outgoing celebratory melody “Liberty” employs intense electronics and programming, giving off a dance vibe, and relaying that Jesus is the One who makes everyone clean and whole, as ‘…every sinner had a past, but every sinner has a future and only You can free my soul…’ and the mysterious dance/rock ballad “Slow Down My Heartbeat” containing layers of imagery and metaphors, allowing us to dwell upon a track that reminds us of surrendering to God and giving everything to Him, it is the final track that epitomises the heartbeat of the album.
“The Edge Of The Earth” symbolises a journey of self-discovery, of longing to find home, whether it is heavenly or physical, it’s up to the interpretation of the individual. Switchfoot have made this song as ambiguous as possible, and the album closer has a “Where I Belong” from Vice Verse atmosphere to it- it’s a reminder that Earth isn’t our home, and as long as we are breathing, we will never stop searching for meaning and purpose, and our place within our 80 or more years on this planet. Well done Switchfoot for reminding us that Earth is temporary, and it is in the fleeting moments that we see God’s handiwork the most!
Though one might pass off this EP as the rough demos of songs that didn’t work with or gel on Fading West, I see the 7 new songs as a reminder to put our heart and soul into everything we do, as we never know when the fruits of our labour will be sown and reaped. This is certainly the case with Switchfoot’s The Edge of the Earth: Unreleased Songs From The Film ‘Fading West’– kudos to them for releasing a new project that they’re proud of that isn’t second rate. Though I maybe have wanted these tracks on the January release, the fact of the matter is that demos are no longer failed attempts as songs, and this line of thinking should be adopted by more artists in my opinion. Switchfoot reworked what they recorded before, and here’s hoping and praying that other artists follow suit. As for the any future album from Switchfoot, it they’re as half as good as Fading West and the companion 7 track EP, then Switchfoot is sure to have a brighter and longer career ahead of them!
3 songs to listen to: Fading West, Liberty, Edge Of The Earth
RIYL: Lifehouse, Daughtry, Skillet, Colton Dixon, U2