Switchfoot, hailing from San Diego, Calif., is an alternative rock band that has been around for nearly two decades. While they did get their start in Christian rock and many people refer to them as a “Christian band,” the group actually rejects this label. “We are Christian by faith, not genre,” bassist Tim Foreman explained to Rolling Stone magazine in 2003. The band unashamedly attracts fans in the mainstream as well while dominating CD racks in Christian bookstores. The music, they believe, is all about opening your mind.
Fading West, released on Jan. 14, 2014, is the band’s ninth album to date. It bears all of the marks of Switchfoot’s indie-pop sound with lively and upbeat energy, vocal “ohs” and the driving guitars and rhythm section. However, Fading West stands out from Switchfoot’s previous albums with its world music influence.
Drummer Chad Butler described how the band has been able to pick up different sounds while on tour —for example, a guitar in Africa made out of a gas can inspired some unique sounds. The band also recruited some guest musicians to play different instruments and add different tone colors to the already diverse musical score.
The 11 songs on this album cover a wide range of musical flavors. There are some more lyrical ballads, such as “When We Come Alive,” some upbeat songs guaranteed to get you dancing around the room like “Love Alone is Worth the Fight,” and some heavier rock like “Say It Like You Mean It.”
One of the songs, simply titled “Ba55,” is — not surprisingly — bass-driven. Jermone Fontamillas lays down some heavy synth and electronics work while guitarist Drew Shirley shows off some crazy finger-work with a huge amount of musical effects to compliment his band mate’s sound. Whatever your musical preferences, chances are you will find at least a handful of songs to suit your taste on Fading West.
As usual, the lyrical mastery is insightful and inspirational. The promotional single released in September, “Love Alone is Worth the Fight,” is an anthem just as much to hope as it is to love. The lyrics portray one who is feeling lost and maybe even worthless (“And I never thought it’d come to this/But it seems like I’m finally feeling numb to this/The funny thing about a name is/You forget what the reason you were playing the game is/And it’s all an illusion/A 21st century institution”), and comes to the realization that in this life, love alone is worth living for (“So I’m back to the basics/I figure it’s time I face this/Time to take my own advice/Love alone is worth the fight”).
Other songs, such as “Ba55,” are almost just an observation or expression of the world around us (“There’s killers on the street, killers on the road /You’ve gotta get back on the straight and narrow/Gotta get back home, you’ve been told”). The lyrics of Fading West are hardly sugar-coated clichés. They reflect the true human condition, complete with joy, sorrow, hope, pain, love and fear.
Fading West is definitely worth a listen, whether you are a seasoned fan or you are just checking out Switchfoot for the first time.