The Legend Of Chin


re:think, 1997

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Going backwards in a band’s catalog can feel like an archeological expedition. Digging through the rubble of the ancient past, what will the artifacts we discover suggest about more recent events, about the evolution of a culture, an idea, a band?

Six years and two albums prior to their mainstream breakthrough The Beautiful Letdown (2003), Switchfoot introduced themselves to the world by way of 1997’s The Legend Of Chin. Starting out as a tight trio of Jon Foreman (lead vocals and guitar), Tim Foreman (bass and backing vocals) and Chad Butler (drums and backing vocals), the group here sounds embryonic in every way but ambition. Unpolished as it sometimes is, this debut offers abundant clues to the band’s eventual success, an album of raw yet tasty dough that would eventually cook up into something special.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The pure drive and considerable dynamics of tunes like “Chem 6A,” “Underwater,” and “The Edge Of My Seat” point toward the band’s eventual transition to a bigger sound. Meanwhile, touches like the dreaminess of “Bomb,” the trumpet accents on the bridge of “Edge” and the string section deployed on “You” and “Don’t Be There” suggest the experimental flair that would manifest itself more and more as the band evolved and matured.

Chin also offers an introduction to Foreman’s penchant for addressing spiritual concerns in his lyrics without proselytizing (“Bomb,” “Life And Love And Why,” “Ode To Chin”). The ballads “Home” and “You” skate right up to the edge of becoming devotional songs, but never cross the line, remaining searching and thoughtful rather than directive and preachy. A personal favorite here, “Concrete Girl” delivers both intriguing soft-hard dynamics and a gauzy lyric that feels like it’s projecting teen angst through the lens of a spiritual quest.

What’s different here from later Switchfoot outings is the youthfulness apparent in narratives like “Chem 6A” and “Might Have Ben Hur,” and the simplicity of the trio’s still-rudimentary sound, a sort of raw, close-up mono version of their later panoramic, full-surround approach. You can sense the potential, but the boys—ages 23, 20 and 18—hadn’t progressed far enough yet at this point to fully harness it.

The Legend Of Chin is nonetheless an impressive debut, a signpost pointing the way to bigger songs, bolder experiments, and a much wider audience. And the charms at its heart are the same found on any Switchfoot album: the pure sincerity and heartfelt words of Jon Foreman, set to diverse musical approaches that range from gentle acoustic ballads to catchy guitar pop to propulsive hard rock. Sometimes raw cookie dough is almost as good as the finished product.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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