March 18, 2004

No ‘Letdown’ with Switchfoot

If you’ve been tuning into MTV lately, you’ve seen Switchfoot, the up-and-coming alt-rock band that plays Saturday at the Catalyst. Oh, you don’t watch MTV except when your teenage son has it turned up full blast? Well, maybe you saw them on the Leno show or "Jimmy Kimmel Live" or the Craig Kilborn show.

Switchfoot has released "The Beautiful Letdown" just last month and it’s burning up the charts with a cross of sounds that are part Nirvana, part REM and plenty of Radiohead.

The music is catchy, lyrically thoughtful and rocks.

The first track, "Meant to Live," is full of the angst of angry young men, who expected so much more, but then find the rest of the world has let them down. It’s a song born for commercial radio.

But it’s some of the other tunes that capture attention with their beautiful melody lines and thoughtful lyrics. In "This Is Your Life," Switchfoots poses the question: "This is your life. Are you who you want to be?"

Aren’t these guys too young for those questions?

The San Diego band was formed seven years ago by guitarist Jon Foreman, 26, and his brother Tim Foreman, 25, the bassist. When drummer Chad Butler and keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas joined, the band honored their surfing background by calling themselves Switchfoot.

They still like to surf and ought to be right at home here in Santa Cruz.

Tripping along to "More Than Fine" gets back into the hooks and an REM feel with an upbeat and positive vibe. This is a summer song and you almost expect Sheryl Crow to sing backup, or maybe Mandy Moore, who has actually guested with the band and featured them in her film "A Walk to Remember."

"Dare You to Move," from the band’s previous album "Learning to Breathe" was re-recorded for this latest effort and is poised to be the group’s next single. And while commercially accessible, it also has plenty of range and feeling.

Songs like "Gone" tread lightly but invoke the gods of music — Elvis and Frank Sinatra — and a comparison to Third Eye Blind. "On Fire" plainly marks them as idealists, filled with lush guitars and channeling the spirit of Thom Yorke (Radiohead).

The album winds down with "Adding to the Noise" and "Twenty-Four," a sure and emotional ballad. In his press material Jon sums it up:

"That’s what I’m living for: freedom of spirit. I find unity and peace in none of the diversions that this world offers. But I’ve seen glimpses of truth and that’s where I want to run."