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The Beautiful Letdown - Click to view! As mere humans, we know failure only too well. And we should: we ourselves are a failure. We were created to bring glory to the Father, and, because of the intrusion of sin, fail to do so every day. Perhaps the reason that we fail is because of our mindset that we can make it on our own, when in reality we can't even get out of bed in the morning without God's assistance. All of this, Switchfoot says, is the reason that we are a "beautiful letdown," - we are the Lord's beautiful creations who have been corrupted by sin.

The Beautiful Letdown, Switchfoot's fourth (and easily their best) record, brings to light the fact that "we were meant to live for so much more." Unafraid to slam the truth in our faces, Jonathan Foreman issues the wake-up call to humanity during the disc's first four tracks. In the opener, "Meant to Live," we learn that we've strayed so far away from God that we've lost ourselves completely. This is not an accident. We lose ourselves foolheartedly because we have failed to realize that we carry the answer inside of us: "Everything inside / screams for second life." Borrowing from this phrase, "This Is Your Life" feeds us more truth simply by saying we're not getting any younger. Listeners are asked a series of questions about life ("Are you who you want to be? Is it everything you dreamed that it would be?"), but the real ponderance we obtain is "Are we seeking God's best instead of our best?" While our best is fine, God's best is "More Than Fine" as Foreman stresses in the third track. Unfortunately, our selfishness keeps us from doing so ("Ammunition"), but thankfully, God always freely offers us the peace, grace, and mercy that can only come from Him ("Redemption") if we are willing to take hold of it. Finally, Switchfoot drops us a 3-piece bombshell during the title track. First of all, yes, we are in fact lost. We are termed "the Church of the drop-outs, the sinners, the losers, the freaks, and the fools." Secondly, the only way to overcome the world is to turn ourselves over to God ["it was a beautiful letdown, when I crashed and burned"]. Although we forfeit our lives and the earthly pleasures of mortality, we receive the ultimate gift in the saving blood of Jesus Christ. The last piece is where the record reaches fruition: while we ourselves are a beautiful letdown, Christ's death on the cross was the most beautiful letdown in all history. Indeed, The Beautiful Letdown is a lyrical gem in every sense of the word.

This project also ignites a new musical maturity for Switchfoot. While Learning to Breathe was a well-blended recipe of alternative and modern rock, the band really turns on the crunch during this record, giving them a weighty rock/pop clamor. New member Jerome Fontamillas's presence is also more than welcome at the keyboard, especially during "Gone," a Spin Doctors-flavored cut about the brevity of a lifespan. For the hardcore, you can't beat "Meant to Live," "Ammunition," and "Adding to the Noise." This gnashing trio features the most intense rock Switchfoot has ever performed - not to mention the loudest Jon Foreman has probably ever screamed. Still, there are the mellow and worshipful cuts like "On Fire" and "24," a personal favorite. These two songs place the keyboard at the forefront and meld acoustic guitar with steady drums for a peaceful motif. "This is Your Life" adds variety to the set with its inclusion of synthesizers. It's not exactly a Joy Electric techno-fest, but the steady, varient toned pulses do enhance Tim Foreman's flair with the bass. Surprisingly, the hit single "Dare You to Move" from the band's last album reappears on The Beautiful Letdown, but both versions sound nearly identical except for a stronger showing of electric guitar and a piercing yell added by Jon Foreman at the track's conclusion.

Since The Beautiful Letdown appears on both a Christian (Sparrow Records) and a mainstream (Columbia Records) label, it's a step forward for the band in more ways than one. Listeners looking for just another glamorous rock album will be disappointed. However, if you want to be challenged to get reconnected with God's plan for your life, then there's no better selection to make. This is a CD that has shown me what an awesome feeling it is to drop everything you're doing only to crash and burn on God's promises.
- Rick Foux
January 2003
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