After travelling the globe together in search of inspiration, the band of 40-year-old Christian surfer dudes from San Diego-alternately known as Switchfoot-have broken their silence with the release of Fading West, the group’s ninth studio album. The record accompanies a documentary, also titled Fading West, which chronicles the band’s travels, giving the audience a behind-the-scenes look at their journey. The album aims to reveal the importance of faith and family in the midst of great change. Fading West demonstrates a newfound energy that the group seemingly lost with the release of their previous album, the dark and intense Vice Verses. With its standouts including “Love Alone is Worth the Fight” and “All or Nothing At All,” the album provides a return to the vivacity felt on The Beautiful Letdown, Switchfoot’s fourth and most successful album.
“Love Alone is Worth the Fight” is largely representative of the band’s 18-year history, in which they recorded nine studio albums, released a motion picture, and took home a Grammy. In the song’s creepily contagious chorus, lead singer Jon Foreman sings, “We Find what we’re made of / Through the open door / Is it fear you’re afraid of? / What are you waiting for? / Love alone is worth the fight.” Combining the group’s signature strong rhythm section and the indie-pop influenced vocals, the song introduces the album with optimistic vibes and energy. Similarly, the ninth song on the album, “All or Nothing At All,” shows off Foreman’s strong vocals and offers an infectious sound reminiscent of the group’s earlier works.
Coinciding with the album-using U2’s album-documentary combination Rattle and Hum as inspiration-the group created a film similarly titled Fading West that it described as “part rock documentary, part surf film, and part travelogue.” Focusing so much on the movie was a considerable risk, as fans will likely overlook the film’s content and simply listen to the album. Some might argue that the presence of the film only reduces the overall effectiveness of the record, yet the gorgeous locations and diverse cultures the group visited throughout the film helped to inspire some equally beautiful songs. Even if fans ignore the documentary, Switchfoot did well with balancing the two, and the music accordingly doesn’t seem to suffer. Much like Beyonce’s recent self-titled album, Switchfoot’s Fading West actually builds on the experience of the album with its video components.
Fading West can-in broad terms-be considered a success simply because of how bright and revitalized the group sounds throughout. After a recent trend of low-spirited releases from the band, Switchfoot seems refreshed and hopeful, and perhaps even to have grown a little in its sound. In the penultimate song of the work “Saltwater Heart”, Foreman sings “Maybe I could was clean / All my landlocked dreams,” but ultimately assures his listeners of the group’s regeneration and the enlivenment of the band’s aims.
While the album succeeds in escaping back to the more spirited nature of previous albums, and has something to show for itself with the corresponding documentary, the record fails to present any truly outstanding songs. Fading West‘s tracklist is consistently safe and is overall uneventful. Although Switchfoot seems reinvigorated on the new album, it is missing the raw, unprocessed hits like The Best Yet’s “Dare You to Move” and “Meant to Live.” As a consistent, albeit slight, album that adheres more to the genre of pop than alternative, Fading West provides a pleasant and refreshing record that will not disappoint in any profound way. If you’re expecting a diverse set of sounds and more than a couple notable tracks in the package, or a moment that will make you get out of your seat and dance, though ,you’re definitely out of luck. Fading West is a safe and balanced work that succeeds in bringing back the band’s liveliness of character, yet fails to present anything of exception.