It's this balance of criticism and hopefulness that marks the tracklist. From the cry for help of the opening track, "Lonely Nation", Jon Foreman and company musically delve into darker musical themes that were previously hinted at in tracks like "Ammunition" from The Beautiful Letdown, musically taking the album into the more muscular places hinted at in that past album, from the thundering drum hits from Chad Butler, to the harder hitting chorus of guitars and Jon Foreman's howling and screaming. In some ways, Switchfoot takes the themes of awareness of the fallen state of our society and discontent with the way things are and finds a musical companion for it in grunge music, getting almost Nirvana-like with the mantra-chanting and howling of discontent in "Happy Is a Yuppie Word".
Of course, they also don't lose hope altogether, which is marked in trading track positions with "Stars" getting the kind of infusion of positivity in the face of troubles that I think played a role in the band building their fanbase with The Beautiful Letdown. It's a clear single, taking in catchy driving guitar runs and massively crunchy guitar crashes all the same. "The Shadow Proves the Sunshine" comes from a similar place lyrically, but musically starts quite and builds to its immense anthem finale. A couple of Nothing Is Sound's better moments include the questioning "The Blues", which despite its name isn't the musical form, but captures the emotional place when you're finding yourself disillusioned and broken and honestly doesn't answer its own questions in itself. There's another anthem in "We Are One Tonight" as the penultimate track that works pretty well as a single in the way of "Stars", finding hope in togetherness again in the face of a broken world.
And it's striking that balance between disillusionment and continued hope that the album both lyrically and musically succeeds. The crashing, thundering, and screaming performed acts as the cry of the pain of disillusionment and discontent, but the album also finds shimmering guitars and choruses with backing vocals that connects with more hopeful themes and colliding them together, sometimes in the same song provides an internally dynamic tension that sells the honesty of it all. On Nothing Is Sound, Switchfoot displays the bite of adulthood on youthful idealism and I found it utterly empathetic. And perhaps because it resonated with me so back then, and even now, I can't help but find it to be, back to back with The Beautiful Letdown, one of the band's best albums, the darker, but just as idealistic, twin to its predecessor. 9/10
Note: It's really disappointing that the original release of the album was marred by some truly heinous copyright protection on the part of Sony BMG and EMI. I think that played a role in sinking the album after a promising start. Anyway, although Sony theoretically pulled most of the copies with the illegal rootkit-based copyright protection, there might still be some floating around. The less illegal but just as broken Cactus Data Shield versions peddled by EMI were not recalled so be wary of which CD you buy, if you choose to go the CD route.
- Lonely Nation
- Happy Is a Yuppie Word
- The Shadow Proves the Sunshine
- Easier Than Love
- The Blues
- The Setting Sun
- The Fatal Wound
- We Are One Tonight