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Switchfoot - Oh! Gravity Review

by Andrew Phelan

I would prefer to hate an album than to think it was pretty good. That might sound strange, but it's true. I guess I'd rather have my emotions be on either end of the spectrum. Then I think I'd have more to say than just "meh" or "it's pretty good." It makes for more interesting reading when someone is either trashing someone's artistic vision or giving it unparalleled praise. The problem with a "pretty good" album is that you can definitely point out the parts you wish there were more of, and you wonder why there isn't more of it. And then there is the other side of the coin. The much lamer side of the coin. The duller side of coin. The generic side of the coin. Switchfoot's latest album Oh! Gravity. is speckled with instances of sweet, sweet moments of rock and even more skip-worthy moments. What's worse that just writing a lame song is writing forgettable songs. Even sucky songs can be catchy. Case in point: "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba.

Everything starts out great, the songs all seem to bleed into one another, yet the album loses momentum fairly quickly. "Oh! Gravity." and "American Dream" are probably the two strongest songs on the album. It's no wonder why "Oh! Gravity." is the radio single: it's fast, short, driving, and it ends with "la la la's." "Awakening" could have been really solid . Vocalist Jon Foreman had the whole U2 vibe going on during the intro, it's just too bad the chorus was reminiscent of Hilary Duff's single "Come Clean." That really just messed me up. After that, everything just lags. For the most part, the musicianship is top-notch, but the choruses are repetitious. I mean, is the phrase "in circles" really needed eight times in one chorus? For a band that's known for profound and insightful lyrics, this song fails to leave listeners scratching their heads looking for a deeper meaning.

"Amateur Lovers" has it's moments (bad-ass guitar riffs, a subtle sitar, Beatles-esque horns), but once they hit me with "Faust, Midas, and Myself" I realized that what this album has is way too much of Jon Foreman. Give me some more harmonies, give me more vocal variation. Dude, there are four other members in the band, I want to hear a little more from them. No one likes a mike hog.

Basically what I'm saying is once you hit track five the album starts spinning down in, um, circles. Wait, what's this? The last song is beautiful, unassuming, and poetic (in it's own right)? It doesn't drag on unnecessarily? It's too bad you have to wait all the way until the end to hear it. Well, I guess that's why they invented "skip" buttons.

I don't suppose I wanted this album, or the album previous (Nothing Is Sound), to be another The Beautiful Letdown. However, it did lack certain qualities that made their double platinum release more charming, cohesive, and an all around easier listen. Music triggers a lot of memories for me. The Beautiful Letdown sends me back to the summer and fall of 2003. I have very specific memories about who I was with and what I was doing. I remember playing the album beginning to end multiple times a day. It seemed like for four months it was all I listened to. Three or four years from now, how will I remember Oh! Gravity., I wonder? I probably won't.

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