Switchfoot’s frontman, Jon Foreman, once remarked that he writes songs about people he doesn’t understand, most notably God and girls.
So when he sings: “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know you hold my future” on Native Tongue’s opening track, who does he have in mind? God, or a girl?
Switchfoot don’t want to be pigeonholed as a ‘Christian band’, but those who are willing to listen closely will discover there’s a lot of ‘God’ on the band’s eleventh studio record. As the track’s title suggests, ‘Prodigal soul’ is based on Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. And ‘Joy invincible’ is an ode to God’s goodness in hard times: “Hallelujah nevertheless was a song that pain couldn’t destroy.”
At their heart, Switchfoot are a guitar-driven rock band. ‘Take my fire’ is the heaviest track on the record, and it’s also one of the strongest. There are some musical surprises too. ‘Voices’ and ‘The hardest art’ draw on dance and electronic influences, while ‘Dig new streams’ features a brass section, jazzy guitar solos and a plea for listeners who have been “hurt by the church of black and white” to “find rest, my burden is light”.
Foreman is an artist, not a worship leader, but sometimes the lines get blurred. During ‘The strength to let go’ he sings: “I choose mercy instead of control / My life is on loan / Forgive and let go / I embrace the belief that I’m known / What a beautiful sound to lay your life down / Your forgiveness is where I am found.”
Native Tongue is one of the best albums Switchfoot has ever produced. And for a band who has been making music for more than 20 years, that’s quite an achievement.