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Face To Face
How To Ruin Everything
Vagrant Records

Earlier this year, we were blessed with the welcomed return of the Bad Religion we once knew.  A potent, aggressive and insightful punk band that had softened on recent efforts, but was now making its way back to the front of the pack with a new album, Process of Belief.  The same seems to have happened with Face to Face, an equally powerful punk band that had slowed down as of lately, creeping back with 2000’s Reactionary, and now making a proper bid for the punk rock crown with the excellent How to Ruin Everything.

The band has returned to life as a three-piece, after the departure of guitarist Chad Yaro that followed the completion of Reactionary, and the remaining three are doing just fine.  Trever Keith masterfully blends catchy hooks with crunchy power chords, all while singing in a voice that sounds on this recording as passionate as it has in years.  Growled lyrics like “No love is unconditional!” never fail to convince you that this is a band that actually means what it says, whether it is taking on relationships or consumerism.  Scott Shiflett’s pulsating basslines are both powerful and playful, while his background punk chants offer plenty of opportunity to sing along, and it’s all held together by the tight and thunderous drumming of Pete Parada, who helps keep everything moving along at a furious pace.  The raw and gritty production, which comes as a result of minimal guitar overdubs and recording live in the studio, only helps.

The vintage sound of older Face to Face is back in full force, made obvious from the opening “Bill of Goods.”  Darker tracks like “A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing” and “Unconditional” are dispersed among catchier songs like “14 Hours,” “Shoot the Moon,” “Graded on a Curve” and “The Compromise.”  “The World in Front of You” is perhaps the highlight here, achieving a status akin to “I Won’t Lie Down,” perhaps the best track (and a personal favorite) from the band’s 1996 self-titled effort.  The brutal “Waiting to be Saved” is another hot spot, conjuring up memories of the classic punk rock you know and love so dearly.  On the other hand, the acoustic closing title track is a heartfelt way to end the album, giving you a chance to catch your breath before it all comes to an end.  You may recognize a couple of these songs, as “Bill of Goods” was included on the Vagrant sampler, Another Year on the Streets, and “Fight or Flight” found itself on a recent split EP with The Dropkick Murphys.  But even if you already know these two songs by heart, they are worth hearing again.

Face to Face has been around for quite some time.  They have been to the major labels and back, gaining and losing fans along the way, but it has all strengthened their resolve to hold onto a status as one of the most significant punk acts around.  And just in case you somehow manage to dislike the album, the guys stick with the tone set by the title and include printed instructions on how to destroy it.

Eddie Fournier

Track Listing:

  1. Bill Of Goods
  2. The Take-Away
  3. 14 Hours
  4. A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
  5. The New Way
  6. The World In Front Of You
  7. Why Would I Lie?
  8. Unconditional
  9. Shoot the Moon
  10. Graded On a Curve
  11. Fight or Flight
  12. Waiting to Be Saved
  13. Double Standard
  14. The Compromise
  15. How to Ruin Everything

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