Learning To Breathe

Switchfoot

re:think Records, 2000

http://www.switchfoot.com

REVIEW BY: Daniel Camp

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/11/2008

With apologies to Jason Warburg, Switchfoot’s near-perfect review record on the Daily Vault is over. Learning To Breathe, the group’s final foray in CCM before hitting mainstream success with 2003’s The Beautiful Letdown, delivers signs of things to come, but is definitely an album by a band still in need of musical maturation and is by no means perfect. That said, it’s not a half bad piece of work.

For starters, Jon Foreman and the crew begin in style with “I Dare You To Move,” a song that, when included again on their next album, would top the mainstream musical charts. Virtually a carbon copy of the recording many are more familiar with from The Beautiful Letdownmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 , it remains interesting to hear the less tested Foreman vocals. This song was a hit for a reason, and as an opener to this album, it definitely does not disappoint.

The album certainly comes down from the mountaintop after such a strong opening track, but by no means is the rest garbage. Songs like “Learning To Breathe” and “The Economy of Mercy” reveal the lyrical greatness soon to become commonplace for Switchfoot, with beautiful melodies to match.

The band’s as-yet-untapped potential is most obvious in my favorite tracks, “Love Is The Movement” and “You Already Take Me There.” Here the band seems desperate to deliver a deep message behind thunderous guitars, and succeeds for the most part – yet you can’t help but think something is missing. That something in intangible and unidentifiable, but it’s impossible to shake the feeling that you’re not hearing the songs at 100%.

The group’s recognizable charm and humor is present in “Poparazzi,” a ditty about the hounds and groupies trailing bands from Nirvana to Switchfoot themselves. Foreman’s lyrics are biting, but he manages to convince you nonetheless that he means it all in good fun, and you leave the song with a smile.

The rest of the disc is really what distinguishes it from later releases from the more evolved Switchfoot of the 2000s – it’s forgettable. None of the songs bring anything particularly fresh to the table, and while none of them are poor, all are mediocre. This is the difference between Learning To Breathe­-era Switchfoot and the band I love today. On modern releases by the band, no song is dispensable; every single one is vital to the structure and integrity of the album. I rarely skip songs on new Switchfoot albums, but I think you will find yourself doing so during slower portions of Learning To Breathe.

This album is a good effort, really, and remains a better CCM album than most of the material put out in the late ‘90s. However, when stood up against what the band would later put out, it lacks staying power. Learning To Breathe shows a band in transition, and with the musical peaks come also the valleys.

Rating: B-

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© 2008 Daniel Camp 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 re:think Records, and is used for informational purposes only.