The Orange County Register

 

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'Beautiful' isn't a letdown
By Matt Degen
Sunday, Feb. 26, 2003

Considering it's been more than two years since Switchfoot put out an album, the period has been a busy one for the group. And with Tuesday's release of "Beautiful Letdown" and a coming headlining club tour to support it, things are bound to stay that way.

Since putting out the criticially acclaimed "Learning to Breathe" in September 2000, the longtime trio picked up a fourth member, was nominated for a Grammy in the Rock Gospel Album category, signed a deal with Columbia Records, became a large part of the successful "A Walk to Remember" soundtrack, and singer-songwriter Jon Foreman won the Gibson Les Paul Horizon Award for most-promising up-and-coming guitarist.

Looking back on it all, Foreman says it's been a whilrwind.

"I guess the highlights would be maybe starting with the Grammy nomination. The way I see that was it was an amazing way to see U2 for free," he said with a laugh from San Diego, which he and the rest of his bandmates call home. "Just to walk the red carpet; just that experience is so hectic, you'd almost rather walk through the back door. One minute people are fighting and the next they're smiling."

That wasn't the only red carpet Switchfoot walked. With its four songs on the gold-selling "A Walk to Remember" soundtrack, the band picked up even more mainstream exposure - and was thrown into an environment that it wasn't exactly used to seeing.

"We were in the 'Walk to Remember' (premier) watching, and David Hasselhoff is behind us bawling his eyes out with his daughter," Foreman says. "It's a surreal experience. All those types of events seem so unrelated to the life of a rock 'n' roll band, that it almost has nothing to do with (it). You take it all in stride and go back on the road and sell T-shirts."

The past two years have also helped Switchfoot prepare as a four-piece band, adding Jerome Fontamillas on guitars and keyboards to the existing lineup of Foreman, his brother Tim on bass and drummer Chad Butler.

"I feel for Switchfoot we are getting close to who we are and what we are about. There's a chemistry," says Foreman, 26. "I feel this album captures a band in a studio making music as a unit. To have Jerome on board is a huge piece of who we are. He came a couple of years ago and has been playing with us live ever since."

And what the band has created is anything but a disappointment. "Beautiful Letdown" is a rousing rock testament of hope, dreams and inspiration.

In a day when so many records writhe with angst, "Beautiful Letdown" counters the trend with radio -friendly ballads such as "Meant to Live," "This is Your Life," and the catchiest song I've heard this year, "Gone."

What the band members are realizing now, Foreman says, "is that these songs are our inheritance or some sort of gift along the line - that we've been given these songs and to take them seriously. To not just play them but to be inside of them.

Foreman also points to the philosophy behind the album that gives meaning to so many of its songs.

"I think the 'Beautiful Letdown' is a good jumping off point to learn about the nature of humanity, and I include myself in that statement," he says. "It's a paradox or contradiction. Pascal talked about it. When viewing man you have to see the atrocities as well as view on the other side the amazing qualities that humanity has. If you ignore the terrible parts of what humanity is capable of you're not being realistic.

"If you ignore that we are God-like in ways, that we are created in the image of God, then you are depressed," he says with a laugh.

"I think the album is my attempt to wrap my fingers around humanity and myself in the 21st-century world."

That is where hope lies - in the idea that there is hope and meaning and truth beyond myself."

Beautiful indeed.