Switchfoot have a habit of tying up critics and reviewers in knots. Some thought the dark-hued 'Nothing Is Sound' a major disappointment after the multi-platinum 'The Beautiful Letdown'. Others thought it up there with their finest work. Now this newie is again confounding the armchair musos. One reviewer has suggested that 'Oh! Gravity' "takes you back to the sound of 'The Beautiful Letdown' and parts of the record remind me of their earlier albums like 'Learning To Breathe' and even 'Legend Of Chin'," while another has announced that 'Oh! Gravity' shows "a distinct stylistic departure from their previous projects." I'm already on record as naming 'Oh! Gravity' one of the "Best Albums Of 2006" (it was released in the US on 26th December) so here are my thoughts as to why I think the San Diego rockers have delivered another gem. The strength of the album hinges on both Jon Foreman's songwriting and the ability of producer Tim Palmer (Pearl Jam, U2) to place songs in settings which touch on new musical territory yet never swamp the loud-quiet-loud dynamics of the band and the keening poignancy of Foreman's voice. The title track with its singable hook and the same kind of immediacy as Jars' "Dead Man" will surely be a big radio hit while elsewhere you'll find an Echo & The Bunneyman-tinged "Burn Out Bright", a Middle Eastern flavoured "Circles", a sawing alt country cut "Head Over Heels (In This Life)", a REM-esque "4.12" and even a retro sounding "Amateur Lovers" about which Foreman nailed it when he said, "We were listening to a lot of Motown Records at the time. I guess whenever white guys try to play soul music it comes out something like the Stones." Lyrically, Foreman is on fine form. The stadium rock sounding "Awakening" tells us that "downtown was a perfect place to hide" before building to a memorable chorus ("Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain/We're awakening/Here we are now with the desperate youth and the pain/We're awakening/Maybe it's called ambition/You've been talking in your sleep/About a dream/We're awakening." One reviewer suggested that 'Oh! Gravity' seems to "dwell too much on materialism and consumerism" and was "just a retread of the band's more recent trend of pointing out problems while seldom ever suggesting any solutions." Such a view flies in the face of the lyrical content of "Let Your Love Be Strong". Over a delicious wall of cellos, Jon intones "All my world resting on your love" and all but the most uninformed would know what love Jon is singing about. Critics, eh? Who needs 'em?
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