face to face
"Don't Turn Away" CD (Fat Wreck Chords)
It's difficult to think of this record as anything other than an absolute classic. Like many bands, face to face laid everything on the table at the outset; every record after this would, at best, echo these ideas and melodies. At worst, the succeeding records would contain little more than hollow imitations of these 13 songs. On its surface, this record is really quite simple - most songs don't use more than four chords, it's filled with anthemic hooks and choruses, it sounds like everyone in the studio was singing backups. It's simply awesome. Upon digging deeper, this baker's dozen reveals a social consciousness ("I'm Trying"), a bitter sense of humor (see "There's only so much you can squander from a feeble mind" in "You've Got A Problem," among other songs) and a restive spirit searching for direction and answers to the tough questions (virtually every song on the record). This record fundamentally does a few things - it focuses on asking the right questions, acknowledging that living is struggling and providing some measure of solace and encouragement as people look for a different way. Unlike most punk albums, "Don't Turn Away" doesn't offer easy answers surrounded by dogma or lecturing; really, this album doesn't offer any answers at all. Instead, it's more like a soundtrack for inquiry and evaluation; it may be a lone voice in the wilderness, but it still asks "Why?" when the outside world says "No," even more than a decade later.
"Self-titled" CD (A & M)
Fuck the review. I keep trying to write it and I hate everything I write (and it doesn't do justice to this record, which is pretty damn good), so let me just say this is the same face to face you've heard before, only with a different bassist (and, if you're basing the lineup on early singles and the first record, a second guitarist). It's the same music, the same vague sentiments about individualism, responsibility, etc., ad nauseam. Shut up about selling out. Buy it or don't.