Face To Face Return To Their Roots To Give Us Protection
By Jeff Feuerhaken
Disclaimer: I’m a sucker for punk nostalgia. I have a very soft spot in my heart for the pop-punk/post hardcore scene that blew up in the 90’s, courtesy of bands like The Offspring, Rancid, and on a grander scale, Green Day. This was a time where the record label was king. A band could gain a whole new level of exposure just by joining the roster of one of the genre’s established labels. I’m talking about the likes of Epitaph Records (owned by Bad Religion’s Brett Gurewitz), Nitro Records (owned by The Offspring’s Dexter Holland), and Fat Wreck Chords (owned by NOFX’s Fat Mike), to name just a few. These labels would regularly put out compilation albums featuring all of their signed bands, and I personally attest that this was an effective method for the fans to discover new music. The first time I heard Face To Face was on one of those compilation CD’s from Fat Wreck Chords, titled Fat Music For Fat People. Their contribution was a catchy, yet simple pop punk ditty called “You’ve Got A Problem”, and I from that point on, I was down with Face To Face. In the years following that compilation, Face To Face had left Fat Wreck Chords to record several albums on several different labels, each one received with varying degrees of respectability from critics and fans. The band went on a farewell tour in 2004, and I figured that would be the last I’d hear of them. But upon realizing that retirement didn’t suit them, they returned to the scene with the album Three Chords And A Half Truth. The album was a bit of a departure from their classic sound, in that they had adopted a more basic, slowed-down type of approach (think Social Distortion). Therefore, I was surprised to hear that on their latest album, Protection, Face To Face have not only have they returned to playing their signature style of uptempo pop punk, but they’ve also returned to Fat Wreck Chords, the label that they started on.
After several listenings to Protection, I’m inclined to say that it’s one of the best, if not THE best, Face To Face album to date. The album starts off fairly strong with “Bent But Not Broken”, a mid-tempo number with some cool bass riffage and a catchy chorus. The album really hits its stride, however, with the next track, “I Won’t Say I’m Sorry”. This song embodies everything that is great about Face To Face: Uptempo punk rock with ultra catchy vocal melodies and a perfect lock of the guitars, bass, and drums. Another excellent track is “Fourteen Fifty-Nine”, an ode to the ticking clock of fame, particularly when applied to reality TV, and the famous-for-being-famous celebrities that dominate the general public zeitgeist. Although there are other standouts, Protection is solid from start to finish. There really isn’t a bad song on the album. There are hooky choruses aplenty, which are sure to stick in your mind long after listening. The vocals are supplemented by just the right amount of ooohs and ahhhs and whoooas. The drumming, bass, and guitars are machine-like tight. The best thing about Protection though, is that the songwriting is just straight up fantastic.
As is often the case with great albums, I have to single out the production team, namely Bill Stevenson (of Descendents and Black Flag fame) and Jason Livermore, for doing a commendable job. Pretty much anything that comes out of their studio, The Blasting Room, should warrant a listen, because these dudes are at the top of their game. The instruments on this album aren’t particularly flashy, but they work as the ideal counterpart to the vocal melodies. They serve to support the overall song rather than fiddle with self-indulgent shreddery. The perfect sonic mix of all the instruments results in an album that sounds both intense and ear-pleasing poppy at the same time. Front man Trever Keith really knows how to write a melody, and the supporting cast of Scott Shiflett (brother of Foo Fighter Chris), guitarist Dennis Hill, and drummer Danny Thompson have locked in to produce a new school punk album that should appeal to most any fan of the genre. Face To Face may have dabbled in retirement, but now more than ever it’s evident that these guys are lifers. Go give Protection a listen, and hear for yourself.