After taking some time off from after the release of 2006's Oh! Gravity to work side projects like Fiction Family Alt-rockers Switchfoot have resurfaced on a new record label. Having moved from Sony's Columbia to Atlantic Records seems to have worked wonders for the San Diego-based band. While Switchfoot's always worn their faith on their sleeves, their music has generally been accepted by mainstream audiences precisely because the universal themes which are present in the lyrics written by front man/guitarist Jon Foreman. The record has taken a more worldly tone than previous records with tracks like the title track Hello Hurricane recalling U2 or even Coldplay. Other songs, including the album opener lend to this worldly sound as Foreman wails a-la Bono while the guitar eerily recall The Edge. This is a track that is out U2-ing U2 and while this could be considered bad to some, the song is still very much a Switchfoot song due to Foreman's lyrics and distinct vocal wail (which while Bono-like in parts, soars far more than Bono ever does).
The lead single from Hello Hurricane is the grungy rocker "Mess of Me," a song that is speaking out to people to be able to forsake drugs that numb them and to correct the personal problems or need to live forever that forced them to take the drugs in the first place. There is a nice instrumental breakdown to this aggressive song that features some vocal gymnastics that may be indulgent to some but in my view they really help bring some classical rock flair into a modern context. Fans of previous Switchfoot singles like "Meant To Live" or "Learning To Breathe" will certainly enjoy "Your Love is a Song," a song which works in both a Christian and a romantic context.
Greasy, synth-aided blues rock comes blasting out of the speakers in the form of "The Sound (John M. Perkins Blues)," a song that enhances the sense of urgency that "Mess of Me" presented while feeling slightly indulgent. Still as far as ‘album tracks go,' the song works well and I suspect it might work well as a sing-a-long at concerts and I can picture kids going crazy while Jon and company work the song out. This is also a song where the whole band gets to ply their wares as bassist Tim Foreman, drummer Chad Butler, piano/synth maestro Jerome Fontamillas and second guitarist Drew Shirley really let loose on the track. Melodic and ‘vibey,' "Enough" really could find Switchfoot with their first Top 40/pop hit in years. It has an ethereal quality to it that lends itself to repeated listening, which is exactly the kind of song pop/rock radio likes.
When it's all said and done, Hello Hurricane is an album that finds a confident band breaking free of the shackles that they found themselves in while with their former record label (the lyrics of many of the songs allude to this, particularly the title track). Completely funded with the band's own monies and recorded with noted producer Mike Elizondo at their new recording studio, the record is easily one of the band's best and it may even top their previous efforts. They've managed to record an album that is vibrant and of the moment while also feeling classical and the work of a refreshed, ready to take over the world band. Welcome back, Switchfoot, I've missed you.
Hello Huricane, Enough, Mess of Me, Needle and Haystack Life, Always Yours