By John DiBiase, Jesusfreakhideout.com
Every fan has their own idea of what "the best" of an artists' work really is. So when projects like Switchfoot's The Best Yet hit shelves, almost every fan will wonder why some of their favorite songs weren't included in the mix. But thanks to mp3 players and programs like iTunes, the need for "best of" compilations has increasingly become less and less. In the end, the people who benefit most from collections like these are the new listeners and not the longtime fans.
As someone who's listened to San Diego pop rock outfit Switchfoot since their humble debut in 1997, I find The Best Yet to be a mixed bag. While the band has certainly earned a "hits" or "best of" project, we've seen it handled a lot better in the past. However, for Switchfoot fans who've really only come to learn about the group since they hit the mainstream with The Beautiful Letdown in 2003, this is a nice little summary of the past and present, with just a minute touch on the future.
Every track on The Best Yet is a good one, with each of the band's six records being represented here. Some of their biggest hits show up in the first few tracks, including "Dare You To Move," "Meant To Live," "Stars," and more recent offerings like "Oh! Gravity" and the track the band wrote for the latest Narnia film, "This Is Home." Switchfoot fans can't complain too much, though, being given a generous 18 tracks here, with further highlights including, "Learning To Breathe," "Awakening," "This Is Your Life," "Company Car," "Lonely Nation," and "Concrete Girl." Although the tracks are not presented in chronological order from 1997 to 2008, the listener can still get a feel for the growth and changes in Switchfoot from their humble beginnings as a three piece until today as a quintet. Unfortunately, aside from the band's cut from Prince Caspian, there's absolutely nothing new offered here. And while that's better than haphazardly tossing on a disposable remix or two, with fans knowing a new studio album is planned for early 2009, it would have been nice for a new song or two to find its way onto The Best Yet.
In 2007, Essential Records gave Atlanta rock band Third Day two CD/DVD compilation volumes to chronicle their successful career, giving a good amount of time to each album release. While Switchfoot only have six studio albums to split between two volumes like that, the band also has a wealth of b-sides and bonuses, as well as a couple Christmas songs, that easily could have been worked into a two-volume release. Knowing Switchfoot's career and impact, a simple 18-song audio disc just doesn't quite cut it. Without the DVD included on The Best Yet: Deluxe Edition, it's just not worth it for the fans to pick it up if they already own all of their albums (and most have probably acquired "This Is Home" in some form or another already). And looking over the audio track list, it seems baffling why songs like "Gone" or their first hit "Chem6A" are both completely absent here. It's a treat to see "Concrete Girl" from their debut make the cut, but that album has a wealth of great songs to choose from that it's unfortunate something like "Life And Love And Why" or "Might Have Ben Hur" or "Underwater" couldn't have made it as well. Yet, the same can be said for their 1999 release New Way To Be Human, which only finds "Company Car" and "Only Hope" here.
Aside from the regular audio portion The Best Yet, the "Deluxe Edition" offers a special DVD that includes every single Switchfoot concept video to date - fourteen in all - with only the newest, "This Is Home," missing. But among the videos included are both versions of "Meant To Live" and "Dare You To Move" and the never before seen videos for "Happy Is A Yuppie Word" and "The Blues." For the DVD, the band recorded an intro interview about their favorite songs being chosen for the collection, and if you choose to watch the "Deluxe Edition" program - which is a glorified "Play All" feature, you'll occasionally get additional interviews in between each video, revealing little Switchfoot trivia about the videos -- like how drummer Chad Butler was under water for an hour and a half straight while filming the video for "Stars" or revealing a bit of the mayhem that went into the spastic video for "Oh! Gravity" or even just how "We Are One Tonight" was recorded in a studio where a lot of the band's musical heroes, from Beach Boys to The Beatles, had also recorded. The videos included are a great way to round out the collection and make the experience feel much more complete. Fans who haven't even seen all of these videos won't want to miss this edition. Another nice thing about the DVD is it features five additional songs in video form that aren't found on the audio disc, giving a wider representation of the band's music in the end.
Each Switchfoot fan can pick apart what should be found on The Best Yet and what shouldn't, but all in all, The Best Yet is a nice look into a great eleven years of music from one of the best pop rock acts today. If you're feeling a little slighted by what the 18-song collection has to offer, the quintessential version of this release is its CD/DVD Deluxe Edition. And perhaps, after a couple more studio releases, the band will receive the "best of" treatment they truly deserve.