Friday, September 30, 2005


After much serious deliberation and consideration, I have decided that Switchfoot is my favourite band of all time.

They have just released a new album - Nothing is Sound. It is wonderful. (Go to to listen to samples from the album.) It's slamming rock tempered with beautiful little acoustic pieces. And the most important thing is, this is not just another Top 40 album about booty-shaking-baby-i-love-you-baby-i-want-you-back.

I am getting increasingly disillusioned with that kind of music - I hardly listen to it anymore. Tell me something that means something, say something that is true.

Below the lead singer of Switchfoot writes about their new album. He writes beautifully - both in lyric and in prose. I wish I could write like that.

In 1991, when Rolling Stone interviewed Dylan on the occasion of his 50th birthday, he gave a curious response when the interviewer asked him if he was happy. He fell silent for a few moments and stared at his hands. 'You know,' he said, 'these are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It's not happiness or unhappiness, it's either blessed or unblessed.'

This record was written somewhere between the blessed and the unblessed, between the godly and the ungodly by a few young urban professionals from San Diego. These songs are dreams and questions, bleeding together, breathing in and out - always somewhere between life and death. And I feel this tension, this distance now more than ever, like a numbing ache... deep inside. The distance between the way things are and the way they could be, the distance between the shadow and the sun. And this is where we exist: within the paradox. Living out our lives: oxygen and carbon and hydrogen and so on... This record was the attempt to make something beautiful in filthy backstage dressing rooms everywhere, trying to sing something true with a broken heart. This record was written about things that I don't understand.

And yes, there's more than a wink of irony in all of this: making music from our most intimate thoughts and selling these songs online for a dollar a pop. Singing an anthem every night about how "we were meant to live for so much more" and many times feeling like a failure; singing "I dare you to move" and feeling trapped. Both loving and hating all the fuss that the music has brought. Knowing that even Rock and Roll, perhaps the best job in the world will not make me happy (in the yuppie sense of the word).

And yes, this American life is absurd! a strange paradox indeed... Perhaps no amount of money, sex, or power has ever satisfied us before, but maybe today will be different! Maybe this new purchase will make me happy! And the sun rises and sets once more - another day, another dollar. A carbonated beverage will help to chase your insecurities away. This new product will help to fill the meaningless void I feel inside. And so I drink the beverage, wear the clothes, and watch the war on TV. meaningless. meaning less.

Do we hunt our ridiculous suburban dreams like the neighborhood cat? Have we quietly fallen in line with the advertisement? Are we driven by ego uncontrolled, our lives simply vain pursuits of meaningless ends? Do we attempt to validate our existence by material means, relational acquisitions, sexual conquests, fiscal achievement, and cultural prowess? It was another jewish man who said something like this a while back.

"All is meaningless,"
Declares the teacher.
"Meaningless, meaningless,
Everything is meaningless"

For me, there is a terrible, wonderful freedom in coming to terms with these un-happy, un-yuppie words. It's a strange consolation in our dizzy and breathless race for happiness to find that you will never outrun the horizon. It's an avalanche you can't escape. It's a fatal wound that you cannot heal. If you fall on this rock you will be broken, if it falls on you you will be crushed. You see, this album started with a blow between the eyes that I am still recovering from, that's really all I've got to offer these days.

So in the half-light glow of radio shows, music videos, and greedy billboard charts I am aware of a darkness that is beyond me, I am coming to terms with my unbelief. No, I don't believe in rock and roll. No, I don't believe in the success that we've achieved. And no, I don't believe in me. In a free market world of the bought and sold I feel caught in between. I believe I've heard about a man who was exploited to sell everything from indulgences to the wars of men. And yet he offered only one bitter pill that was not easily marketed. Maybe that's what this record hopes to be: a simple bitter pill of truth that steps outside of our hamster wheel and looks up at the stars and beyond.

Maybe Dylan was right when he said Rock and Roll isn't Rock and Roll anymore. I've met so many lonely, desperate, beautiful people over the past few years. Yeah, I've got a bitter pill to swallow, but it just might be true. Maybe our lives drift quietly by and we can't stop the current. Maybe this modern river leads to the sea of death, where no medicine can cure these ills. Perhaps our restless wanting is satisfied only outside of ourselves.

It was another jewish man who said something like this, "If you seek to gain your soul you will lose it." I am on a journey that will one day come to final terms with these words.

a few general thoughts on new tunes and their relationship to our previous four albums:

A part of me wishes I could say that our music was formulated and planned out by brilliant, methodical minds who structure entire records out of themes that are independent of anything that has ever been thought of before. In reality, most of these songs are simply the spontaneous ramblings of a man with a guitar who can't sleep - trying to make sense of a broken heart in world that is upside down. In many ways these songs mirror the melodies in my own life: relationships, fears, hopes, insecurities, doubts and so forth all set to the major and minor keys. But it makes sense that these honest songs are the ones that we're proud of; because whether it's Elliot Smith or Stevie Wonder or Pavement or whoever, the honest ones have always been my favorites.

So at the end of our time as a band perhaps we will have only one song to sing - just one very long, rambling, eclectic song that touches on life, death, pain, sex, anger, joy, peace, politics, God and the other elements of a searching soul in the twenty first century. Maybe at the end of my life I will sing only one song, a song that has been refined and purified. A lonely group of notes that will be a sweet, sweet sound for an audience of one. Or maybe I'm still trying to figure out this broken, beautiful planet - writing songs as a way of therapy in the hopes of a better understanding of this existence that we call life. Either way, the bitter struggle for meaning and truth in the postmodern world is a subject matter that I don't think I could ever exhaust.

"Nothing is Sound" is the fifth Switchfoot record. For me, it feels like the next step of a journey, diving deeper into uncharted territories. Because we've lived and breathed on tour for the last eight years, onstage is where our music comes to life, a life that is hard to pin down on tape. If you think this record feels a bit like a "live" record, we're proud to say that these recordings have somehow captured the energy of our live show more than any other record we've ever made.

Perhaps the best way to look at this record is as the next chapter in a mystery novel: many of the the same characters, the same settings and yet a few more clues come to life. Who knows, it could be a dark chapter revealing even more mysteries to be solved. I'm pretty sure you're the only one who can decide for yourself; I'd be curious to hear what your thoughts are. I certainly have my own... Whatever the theme of this record might be, believe me - it was only partly intentional! Hope you enjoy the tunes.


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