With the release of their eighth studio album, Switchfoot faced the nearly impossible task of creating a record worthy of following up their flawless and heartfelt masterpiece, Hello Hurricane. And although Vice Verses is nowhere near as profound or consistent, it is every bit as moving and proves itself capable of following up the band’s phenomenal last album. As has been the case throughout this group’s long career, the ballads are where Switchfoot truly shines, and that streak continues on Vice Verses. Of the album’s 12 up-and-down tracks, almost half of them are well-orchestrated, stirring ballads with the same emotive lyrics that Switchfoot has become known for. Indeed, nearly every line amounts to some easily quotable form of stunningly enlightened poetry, especially when Jon Foreman and company slow things down for their typical brand of reflective music. However, the faster, upbeat songs are what separate Hello Hurricane from this new album, as this is the one area where Vice Verses struggles. Not every song is this category falls short, but the disastrous rap/alt. rock hybrid “Selling The News” and the underwhelming “Rise Above It” singlehandedly bring this album down. Overall, Vice Verses is yet another enjoyable Switchfoot album that will appease fans but won’t draw too many new ones in.
“Restless” changes the pace after three upbeat songs with the first of Switchfoot’s slew of affecting and genuine ballads about love and man’s journey to find meaning in life. Foreman’s wailing vocals convey the urgency of his restlessness while the central metaphors about rivers and the ocean give those sentiments more sophistication and imagery as he declares “I am restless / I run like the ocean to find your shore / I’m looking for you.”
“Dark Horses” gives the band a chance to rock out with one of their heavier songs as Drew Shirley delivers some blazing guitar riffs to the backdrop of Tim Foreman’s funky bass and Chad Butler’s fast-paced drumming. Jon Foreman once again rises to the occasion, delivering a catchy but intense chorus of hope for Stand Up For Kids, a San Diego organization that aids orphaned children in the band’s hometown. But despite its important message, this standout track also serves as a rocking, fist-pumping anthem as well as the best song on Vice Verses.
The heavy rock firepower of “Dark Horses” quickly fades out into the heartfelt ballad, “Souvenirs,” which deserves to go down as one of Switchfoot’s most heart-wrenching and emotionally powerful songs. Jerome Fontamillas provides notes on the keyboard in the background, but it’s Foreman’s sincere confession that steals the show here, as he reminisces about lost love with the heartbreaking realization that nothing lasts forever, saying “I close my eyes and go back in time / I can see you smiling, you’re so alive / We were so young, we had no fear / We were so young, we had no idea / that life was just happening.” The composition is terrific, the emotion easily accessible and the final statement “I wouldn’t trade it for anything, my souvenirs” answers the age-old question “Is it better to have love and lost than never to have loved at all?” with a touching, resounding “Yes.”
Although a number of songs fail to hit the mark, the ballads of Vice Verses more than make up for it as Switchfoot gives fans another taste of contemplative, spiritual music. A solid album that had the unfortunate task of following up the band’s best work, this latest effort doesn’t come close to Hello Hurricane or The Beautiful Letdown, but it should be recognized for the number of masterful songs that litter its track list. From the simple but elegant message of “Thrive” to the revealing “Vice Verses,” Foreman succeeds in capturing his audience’s attention and emotion, a characteristic most especially present on the album’s dynamic and beautifully uplifting closer, “Where I Belong.” Fans of Relient K, Anberlin, Fiction Family, Red, Thousand Foot Krutch, House Of Heroes and Lifehouse will all be right at home with this ballad-focused album. Because although Vice Verses fails to top the phenomenal album that preceded it, at the very least, it serves as another highly enjoyable and sincere dose of Switchfoot.
Final Score: 8.8/10
Rank: 3rd (eight total albums)
- The Original
- The War Inside
- Blinding Light
- Selling The News
- Dark Horses
- Rise Above It
- Vice Verses
- Where I Belong