Review Summary: Face to Face's final album is not the best but is a fitting end.
There seem to be a large collection of punk journeyman bands that have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of melodic Socal punk in the 90s. I guess the fabled tale (or nightmare) of a catchy yet authentic punk band that makes it big is an ascension to a major label, lackluster sales, then being dropped from the major label, and finishing out one's career with some degree of retrospection and nostalgia. That or sell out and remain up at the top. Some bands are still riding the initial swell of the wave; Rise Against and Against Me! have recently released their big major label records. Some bands seem to be on top and permanently altered by it (Alkaline Trio, AFI, etc.). One special band that found its way out of the popular punk narrative arc with a whole lot of its cred intact is Face to Face. They released their best album, Face to Face
, on A&M Records in 1996. From a major label standpoint they weren't a total bomb either. Their most retrospective and nostalgic album, and fittingly, their final record, How to Ruin Everything
is a perfect swan song for a band that stayed pretty uniformly great through all the crests and troughs of their career.
I got into Face to Face because they were recommended to me as a fan of Pulley. Yes, they sound a lot like Pulley, but of course it'd be more appropriate to say Pulley sounds a lot like Face to Face, considering Pulley post-dates F2F's biggest albums. How to Ruin Everything
, like most of Pulley's albums, are collections of great melodic Socal punk songs. How to Ruin Everything
feels conceptually complete as an album but doesn't have the zinger songs that Face to Face
or Don't Turn Away
did. "Shoot the Moon" is possibly the best song in their whole career, up there with "Blind" and the massively popular "Disconnected." Other than though, ya there are some great tracks, but there isn't the consistent greatness of some of their other albums. The overall success of the album comes not from their classical style from Face to Face slightly tweaking their style. There are a lot more minor keys present on this album, giving it a less bouncy feel, but anytime there is a minor key it doesn't bog down a song because they are still super upbeat and catchy. Also the octave guitar riffs seem particularly cool this time around. I love the leading tones on "Graded on a Curve" and "The World in Front of You." Also the bass is fairly improved with the little fills and interesting doublings throughout great songs like "Bill of Goods" and "The Take-Away." The drumming is fun in an expected way. I appreciate the variety in the toms but other than that I'm not juicing over anything on a theoretical, technical, or microscopic level.
Because that's what makes Face to Face so good: catchy, melodic songs. Face to Face is one of those bands that seems to only get better the catchier they get (which is obviously not the case for all punk bands i.e. Rancid's terrible terrible major label album Indestructible
). "Shoot the Moon" is ridiculously poppy, with archetypal chord progressions, but Face to Face makes it feel new and authentic with their passionate reverby singing and fuzzed out instruments. This is not a career-defining album, but a career-closing album. It's not their best, but is a more than satisfying end to a great career. And at the end of it all there's the fitting closer "How to Ruin Everything," a truly touching solo performance by singer/guitarist Trever Keith who saw the band all the way from their simple beginning in 1991 to their admirable close in 2005.
Recommended Tracks: Shoot the Moon, Waiting to Be Saved, How to Ruin Everything, The Take-Away, Bill of Goods, Graded on a Curve (All the tracks are good though. This band never wrote a bad song I don't think.)