THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE An eclectic surprise from the “Meant to Live” rockers
Switchfoot has switched things up.
The San Diego rockers’ “Where the Light Shines Through” (Vanguard) comes 19 years and 10 albums into their career, which has been built on sturdy, second-gen grunge-ish radio hits like “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move” and a string of Christian rock hits. But it feels like nothing the band has previously offered, a mix of styles and sentiments as varied as any indie-rock critics’ darling.
There is a healthy dose of Prince-ly funk guitar on “Float,” which singer Jon Foreman initially approaches like Trent Reznor calling for sexy destruction, before channeling a mood similar to that Bruno Mars-Red Hot Chili Peppers Super Bowl collaboration. On the anthemic title track, Foreman moves from Steven Tyler-like interjections to a Chris Martin-ish falsetto while the band conjures up Beatlesque psychedelia.
Foreman is full-on Coldplay on the lovely “I Won’t Let You Go,” which even includes chiming guitar and lush string arrangements, as it builds to maximum drama in a chorus that culminates in “If you could only let your guard down, I swear that I won’t let you go.” It would be a clear radio-ready hit if radio would give midcareer bands like Switchfoot any sort of break these days.
“Where the Light Shines Through” is the result of the band’s reteaming with producer John Shanks, who handled the band’s multiplatinum breakthrough album, “Beautiful Letdown,” as well as combing through nearly 90 songs written for the project in a period of about 18 months to find the most organic ones.
That’s what lets the synthy dance pop of “If the House Burns Down Tonight” sit so comfortably next to the Beck-ish funk of “Bull in a China Shop” and the Eminem-inspired “Looking for America,” which features a strong verse from Lecrae. This unexpectedly eclectic world all fits together only because Switchfoot built it that way.