Album: Oh! Gravity
Label: Columbia Records
Release Date: December 26, 2006
Review by: Michael Mayer III
- Oh! Gravity
- American Dream
- Dirty Second Hands
- Amateur Lovers
- Faust, Midas, and Myself
- Head Over Heels (In This Life)
- Burn Out Bright
- Let Your Love Be Strong
Learning to Breathe was the end of a chapter in Switchfoot’s career and likewise, Oh! Gravity marks the end of another chapter. This one could be called the ‘major label’ era where their popularity exploded due to mainstream exposure and they continually pushed themselves with every release. This particular album, their sixth, seems to have polarized their audience. Some felt it was too much of a departure from everything they’ve done and others have come to find it was another step in the right direction for the band.
Oh! Gravity starts off with the title track and, much like The Beautiful Letdown, there’s an addictive, memorable riff that rips through the speakers and doesn’t let up. The song definitely has a pop punk vibe (and length) with its very fast pacing and quirky vocal melodies from Jon. The next song follows suit as an anthem against the so-called ‘American Dream’ that people strive for. In it, Jon poignantly points out all that is wrong with what society strives for and how it’s not his American dream. It’s a topic that’s been sung many times before but I always enjoy Switchfoot’s way of putting things into perspective.
‘Dirty Second Hands’ is one of my favorite Switchfoot tracks and the unique song structure is one of the main reasons. The others are the irresistable urge I have to dance during the chorus due to its phenomenal groove and how Jon sings the last part of the song. ‘Awakening’ is a fantastic anthemic rock song with a chorus so catchy you can’t resist pumping your fists to the beat. By this point you can tell that this album is more upbeat and rockin’ than their previous album with that brand of anthemic rock they do best in full force. And while ‘Circles’ can be considered a slower track it still turns up the pace about halfway through with swirling guitars and singing too intense to be considered a ballad.
As ‘Amateur Lovers’ starts you can clearly hear how Tim’s bass playing is going to create that backbone for the song as he has done many times throughout Switchfoot’s career. Jon naturally gets a lot of focus as the front-man of the band and rightfully so, but his brother plays just as large of a role in making the songs work from the background. A rare guitar solo and some trumpets really send this track to another level about halfway through. Also, I can honestly say I never thought I’d hear stuttering used so effectively in vocals. Somehow Jon makes it all work with his ‘P-p-p-p-professionals’ at the end while the guitars go crazy and some serious tambourine playing comes in.
The next song, ‘Faust, Midas, and Myself’, is one of my favorite types of songs lyrically. It’s the type that tells a complete story from beginning to end about a character and in this case Jon narrates in the first person. The man has a life changing dream that some will recognize if they are familiar with the ‘Midas Touch’ fable and when he wakes up he appreciates the routine things of his life all the more. The lyrics are perfectly written and there’s a great buildup to the chorus until the ultimate climax which is one of my favorite lines, ‘What direction? What direction? Life begins at the intersection’.
Nothing Is Sound had a particularly dark and gritty sort of tone and Oh! Gravity has a little bit of that as well. It seems to be just as cynical, but a bit more personal in some ways. The song ‘Yesterdays’ is a powerful, somber tune that seems to be about someone close to the band passing away. Jon sings of remembering the days gone by that can’t be lived again and despite its depressing tone there is a message of pushing on. It’s the type of song that could change lives because of its honesty and relatable nature. The music just adds fuel to the fire of those emotions to have it feel fit for rainy days.
Fortunately, it’s bookended by two uplifting tracks, ‘Head Over Heels’, complete with riffs that are a blast to rock out to and soaring choruses, and the relentlessly upbeat and inspiring ‘Burn Out Bright’. ‘4:12’ is a quirky track with a driving beat and an engaging bass line to keep the spirits lifted while the closer, ‘Let Your Love Be Strong’, is an appropriate acoustic track filled with worship to a loving God. Upon the conclusion of the album I realized that, much like the last album, Oh! Gravity has a perfect tracklist where everything flows from song to song and no two sound alike. In fact, nearly every track on here has a strong, unique conclusion in the last minutes to give it a clear identity.
Overall: This is another one of those albums that took some time to grow on me until it became my favorite Switchfoot album. It is far easier to get into than Nothing Is Sound with all of its anthems and brilliant guitar playing, but it still took awhile for me to absorb everything going on. Often the songs have so many layers of instruments and sounds that it’s impossible to get it all on the first few spins. Switchfoot’s trademark lyrical depth is all still here to go along with the fantastic musicianship to make their second classic album in as many years.
Gems of this album are: ‘Awakening’, ‘Dirty Second Hands’, ‘Amateur Lovers’, ‘Faust, Midas, and Myself’, ‘Head Over Heels (In This Life)’, (or the whole album again)