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Album Review: Oh! Gravity

Posted by Chance on April 1, 2009

A problem with much of Christian Contemporary Music and Christian Rock is that it isn’t original enough, there is not enough experimentation, the music is canned, etc…

Switchfoot, whether intentionally or not, set out to remedy all the wrongs of CCM and CR in this underrated album.  This is Switchfoot’s last release back in 2006, and, to my knowledge, only the title track has received a little bit of airplay.

Instead of making an album just like <i>The Beautiful Letdown</i>, Switchfoot is not afraid to do different things.  Switchfoot has never been formulaic, but listeners would not blame them if they rehash what has worked in the past.  Some songs do sound like typical Switchfoot, such as “Awakenings” and “Head over Heels”, which anyone would recognize as being a Switchfoot song.  For the most part, however, the songs differ from each other and their previous catalog.

A look at a few songs

The album starts out with three aggressive, harder-rocking tracks, in which Switchfoot at times sacrifices the melodic in favor of the style and tone of the song – which is okay by me.  The title track is first “Oh! Gravity”, in which Foreman continues his fascination with physics and thermodynamics (he seems to mention entropy and gravity in a few of their songs), followed by the fast-paced rocker, “American Dream”, then the southern rock style “Dirty Second Hands.”  This trio of songs isn’t in the uplifting vein of your typically CCM or CR album, but they do rock.

In the middle of the album is  “Circles” which, if I understand it correctly, rails against postmodernism but is a little dry, and may be the low point of the album.  “Amateur Lovers” is a fun rock track, and here we see more of the musical instrumentation,  with an interesting segment involving horns and what sounds like a sitar thrown in their somewhere.

The somewhat non-linear “Faust, Midas, And Myself” follows; something that isn’t your normal verse, chorus, verse type song, and touches on the idea of being thankful for what you have, and how having everything you want may be your worst nightmare.

One thing with Switchfoot albums is that they seem to get better, or at least stay consistent, toward the close of the album.  “Burn Out Bright” is a very catchy song, but at the same time, stays interesting enough for many repeat listens.

“4:12” may be the most interesting song on the album.  This is another example of a song that isn’t “catchy” or melodic, but is interesting and fun to listen to nonetheless.

The album closes with “Let your Love be Strong”, which I like to call the anti-ballad, although having a somewhat epic feel to it, with a cello and some horns.  It is somewhat symbolic of the album, as it favors more interesting instrumentation and unusual style over a catchy melody.

The album does seem to repeat previous themes.  “American Dream” rails against materialism, which is a common theme in earlier work.  One wants to say, “Okay, I get it! Materialism is bad!”.  The theme of “wanting more” in this life continues on, as with previous work.  Christianity Today notes “…despite the band’s adventurous spirit from a musical standpoint, the lyrical side of the coin leaves a slight case of déjà vu. “.

The album, on the whole, however, explores some interesting ideas and has some great messages, such as love songs for a spouse, a dead brother, not finding satisfaction in casual love, and depending on God’s love no matter what happens.

Because of its harder-rocking, aggressive nature, one may have to be in the right mood to listen to it, as opposed to previous albums that were more mellow.  It’s more of a driving song for me, as opposed to an office soundtrack.

The album has received some criticism however.  Some reviewers note the lack of ballads and how “melody is often forsaken for somewhat spastic and unpredictable songwriting.”  In my view, however, it is this type of album that is sorely needed in Christian Rock.  Enough with the retread of “what works.”  Switchfoot should be applauded for trying out new things and not just trying to think of 12 catchy songs.


One Response to “Album Review: Oh! Gravity

  1. […] are willing to experiment and do different things with their music.  I did a review of their album Oh! Gravity a while back.   They have another album out called Hello Hurricane.  I don’t think I like […]

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