Jon Foreman and the guys in Switchfoot have been making some of the most thought-provoking commercial music for a decade now, and their latest release, 2011’s Vice Verses, is no exception. In fact, with apologies to their most rocking opus — Nothing Is Sound — and the album that put them on the map — The Beautiful Letdown — it is probably their best yet.
The band’s penchant for crunchy guitar licks and anthemic songwriting is on full display on the first single, “Dark Horses,” and the album’s opener, “Afterlife.” “The Original” and “Rise Above It” are two of the most upbeat pop-rock tracks the band has ever released; “Restless” is a classic, emotionally-charged Switchfoot song where the tension between the temporary and the eternal is brought to the foreground and the title track shows the band’s ability to write an introspective, acoustic ditty too.
Always willing to do more than simply churn out radio hits however, the band throws a couple of knee-buckling curve balls this time around. Synths and Foreman’s almost robotic vocals on the verses of “The War Inside” give that Switchfoot track an atypical feel, and “Selling the News” employs spoken-word stylings over hip-hop beats while Foreman harpoons society’s appetite for shallow sensationalism and consumerism.
By the time you get to the final notes of the spine-tingling closer “Where I Belong” — an epic rock track whose focus on living on earth while looking forward to heaven would play perfectly with the “Sea of Lilies” scene in the Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie — you will applaud the band’s latest effort to prove that rock ‘n’ roll can entertain and matter simultaneously.
Opening for Switchfoot are indie electronic rockers Paper Route, who are playing in support of The Peace of Wild Things, which released last month.
Switchfoot plays 8 pm Saturday, Oct. 20, at WOW Hall; $20-$24.