The Beautiful Letdown (Our Version)


Lowercase People Records, 2023

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Twenty years have passed since Switchfoot issued their major-label debut and best-selling album The Beautiful Letdown. Rather than marking this anniversary solely by featuring the album in concert, as so many of their road-warrior peers do these days, the group decided to revisit the album in the studio and record their own 20-year-later independently-released version.

This makes sense for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the success a certain Ms. Swift has enjoyed in recent years while reclaiming her music from its former record-label overlords. The timing also feels fortuitous for Switchfoot in that the band’s lineup recently reverted to the same quartet they were when this album was first recorded back in 2003—Jonathan Foreman (vocals & guitars), Tim Foreman (bass & vocals), Chad Butler (drums & vocals) and Jerome Fontamillas (keyboards & vocals).

So, why not? There’s certainly nothing in the results to suggest this was a bad idea, even if the differences between the original and the new versions are typically subtle. (Please note: for a full review of the songs themselves, please see my review of the original album; I’m going to focus here on the points of difference between the original and this new edition.)

The 2023 version of “Meant To Live” sounds almost identical, though Jon Foreman adds a few tweaks and ad-libs to his lead vocal. The vocal filters they add in a couple of places are an unfortunate choice, but given the direction their music has taken in recent years, not surprising. The synth patch Fontamillas uses for “This Is Your Life” sounds identical to the original, little details like the guitar down deep in the mix sound very much the same, and Foreman’s voice has held up beautifully. What’s intriguing is how the whole song—and album—is informed by 20 years of singing these songs on the road; “This Is Your Life” in this rendition may have slightly less urgency than the original, but it’s just as gripping.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Similarly, “More Than Fine” has slightly less snap and playful sass to it than the 2003 version, but it's once again a really detailed recreation by the four guys who created in the first place. The bridge section (“more than oceans”) has a little less muscle and a little more roll to it, and the song feels just a tad mellower overall. Interestingly enough, I’d forgotten about the drum solo introduction to “Ammunition” until the guys recreated it here and I went back and checked the original… it feels like the tempo here isn’t quite as headlong as the original, but it's got plenty of muscle and energy. (And Jon isn’t trying to hit the crazy high notes anymore, but that’s probably just smart...!)

They extend “Dare You To Move” a little bit, but that’s the only change I noted in this otherwise detailed recreation of the original. And why wouldn't it be? Much like “Meant To Live,” the 2003 version of “Dare You To Move” was pretty much a perfect song, and they’ve been playing it in concert every single night since.

The second half is where things get sketchy in places. “Redemption” sounds fine, but on the title track—which was already skittering on the edge of overkill with electronics and filters on the original—they add yet more filters and effects. It’s unfortunate, though it’s still a solid tune. Same deal with “Gone,” where the changes they make to the sonics and effects reduce from, rather than add to, the original, though I did enjoy the lyrical update from “our convenient Lexus cages” to “our convenient Tesla cages.”

“On Fire” is a faithful recreation and “Adding To The Noise” remains a brilliant power-pop screed against corporatism and capitalism (people who still think “liberal Christian” is an oxymoron really need to listen to this band more). And closer “Twenty-Four” remains a gorgeous tune, melancholy and uplifting, grounded and soaring all at the same time—a sober, mature look at life and its ups and downs complications and challenges.

If we’re being honest here, this album is unnecessary in just about every way, but there is some fun to be had in hearing evidence of how the band itself has evolved while the songs have remained the same. This recording, while mostly faithful to the stellar original versions, does reflect in places the evolution of their sound. Thankfully these adjustments are mostly subtle; if they’d tried to remake these songs in the style of, say, Fading West, this would have been a different review.

The original version of The Beautiful Letdown is and always will be the definitive version, but anyone who loves that classic mid-2000s era of Switchfoot should find much to enjoy in this revisitation.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2023 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Lowercase People Records, and is used for informational purposes only.