Album Review: Switchfoot, Vice Verses

Switchfoot seems to be in a constant state of change. No album sounds exactly like its predecessor. No song is interchangeable with another. No lyric tastes stale. After 15 years and eight albums, Switchfoot is still asking questions, still growing and surprising.

Vice Verses ebbs and flows with rockin' anthems, rap (what?! but yes!!), and ballads so tender they will tug every last string from your heart. A band that found its footing on Christian radio, Switchfoot has earned a spot in the mainstream spotlight (anyone remember "Dare You To Move"?), and has plowed through label changes and personal struggles to keep getting their message out. As lead singer Jon Foreman says, "We wanted to write about the polarity of what it means to be human, the lights and darks. I'm always intrigued by the tension that exists between life and death. When making Hello Hurricane, there was a graveyard right by the hotel we were staying at while we were mixing it, and I spent a little bit of time there each morning walking through and sorting it out…really Vice Verses started there. This record is as much about loss as it is about what we still have while we're living.”

Each song on Vice Verses is a hard-hitting dose of common sense. Songs like "Thrive" and "The War Inside" are painfully convicting; you feel the guilty sting in Foreman's voice when he says there's "no killer like pride" and "the fight begins beneath the skin." But then he gently croons that it's never too late to course-correct, that "every day a choice is made," and you can choose to "thrive, not just survive."

And yes, Foreman and Co. are now among the ranks of rock artists dabbling in hip-hop. "Selling the News" is an anti-slanted media bash a la Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry." Not a highlight - maybe because it so jarringly stands out among the rest of the album's beautiful melodies - but it's interesting, and is definitely a refreshing reminder that the men of Switchfoot aren't resigned to settling on one genre. They are excited about music, about growth, and about inspiring people to be as awesome as possible. So go be awesome, and stick Vice Verses in your CD player for a little audio-injected gumption. (Out Sept. 27 via lowercase people/Atlantic Records)

4 and 1/2 Stars out of 5

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