Lyrically and musically, Switchfoot's new album focuses on similar themes as their other works: themes indicting a growing culture of loneliness and doubt. Lead vocalist and guitarist Jon Foreman writes on the band's website, "Perhaps the best way to look at this record is as the next chapter in a mystery novel: Many of the same characters, the same settings and yet a few more clues come to life. Who knows, it could be a dark chapter revealing even more mysteries to be solved."
With a slightly too familiar sound, the music of Nothing is Sound includes such tunes as "Lonely Nation," "Stars," "Politicians," "The Setting Sun" (my favorite of the album), the awkward "The Fatal Wound" and the simple acoustic culmination "Daisy."
"Lonely Nation" opens with powerful lyrics of isolation: "Singing without tongues, screaming without lungs/I want more than my lonely nation, I want more than my lonely nation/Desperate we are young, Separate we are one/I want more than my desperation. I want more than my lonely nation."
The simple expression of human longing that made Beautiful Letdown a best seller is found immediately on Nothing is Sound. The song suggests that, in isolation, humanity is an awkward community longing for much more than unity. The effect is subtle, yet profound.
The album's centerpiece, "Happy is a Yuppie Word," takes its title from a 1991 interview Bob Dylan gave to Rolling Stone. When the magazine asked Dylan if he was happy, he replied, "Those are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It's not happiness or unhappiness, it's blessed or unblessed."
The opening of "Happy is a Yuppie Word" echoes Dylan's sentiment: "Everyone dies, everyone loves a fight/Nothing is sound, nothing is right side right/Evening comes when the sun goes down in red/Nothing is cool/When will all the fighting end?/Happy is a yuppie word."
With this song, Switchfoot acknowledges that simple human longing for peace and meaning in the world exists in the world, even though nothing is always or completely perfect.
So, here are the basics: If you're one of few who knew Switchfoot long before New Way to Be Human, you could indeed continue to fear that the band has compromised their sound in order to appeal to the greater American public. Nothing is Sound may not be the sound Switchfoot fans have been looking forward to hearing. Lyrically, however, the band is up to par. If you're one of those steadfast fans who find the all-too-familiar flavor of Beautiful Letdown still palatable, this album's for you.