Two months ago, "Dark Horses," the lead single for "Vice Verses," the eighth studio album from the prolific San Diego Christian rock band Switchfoot, hit the airwaves. Its raw intensity and rich instrumentation led fans to expect a return to the creative brilliance of 2003's "The Beautiful Letdown" (arguably the best and most influential Christian album of all time). In reality, one could argue that after being teased with the genius of "Dark Horses," listeners of "Vice Verses" have fallen victim to false advertising.
After 15 years, three lineups and seven albums, Switchfoot has finally done it: made a truly awful album. To call "Vice Verses" generic is a gross understatement. From its inception, "Vice" is dry, forgettable and at times borderline painful. The first two tracks are anything but captivating, one of them being the ironically titled "The Original." A more fitting epitaph would be, perhaps, "The Song that has Been Written by Ten Thousand Other Bands." Following is "The War Inside." Anyone who can make it through this song's vexing distortion without the assistance of Excedrin Migraine is truly a hero.
Switchfoot hits its all-time low with "Selling the News." Being subjected to frontman Jon Foreman's rapping ability (or lack thereof) is highly unpleasant. Switchfoot has been playing the title track live for two years. The live version is far superior to the studio recording, whose redundancy and lack of percussion make it dull enough to treat insomnia. As an added bonus, you can literally sing the chorus of "Vice Verses" over "Restless" without conflict.
Though the unoriginality and generic nature of "Vice Verses" make Train seem as innovative as Radiohead, it will by no means kill Switchfoot's career. It has a dedicated fan base of Christians and secular music lovers alike, and is known for the remarkable quality of its live shows.
Foreman is essentially the C.S. Lewis of the music industry. One bad album will do absolutely nothing to damage the reputation of "The Beautiful Letdown," which has inspired countless alternative creations since, including Abandon Kansas' "Ad Astra Per Aspera," which is significantly better than "Vice Verses." Abandon Kansas will remind longtime listeners what attracted them to Switchfoot in the first place.
The good news is that "Vice Verses" was recorded in unison with 2009's "Hello Hurricane," a substantially better release. In April 2009, the band tweeted "So we haven't been entirely honest when we said we've been recording a new record. The truth is, we actually recorded 4 albums, 80 songs." Optimistically, the remainder of these tracks will prove "Vice Verses" to be an anomaly.
Alex Eaton is a senior at Clarence High School.
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"Vice Verses" by Switchfoot