I’ve been listening to Face To Face for a long time. Their 1996 self titled album was a constant companion throughout junior high and high school. And their fantastic 2002 album How To Ruin Everything has been one of my favourite punk rock album ever since its release. Every time Face To Face announce a new album, my anticipation meter is sky high. I thought what they did with 2013’s Three Chords and a Half Truth was extraordinary. It showed a band in command of their craft. A band who were looking to expand and refine the poppy punk sound they had come to help define in the 90’s and beyond.
Their return to Fat Wreck Chords for this new record was big news for punk fans. Face To Face started at Fat and you could say, as so many high profile bands (like Rise Against and Against Me!) do, that Fat is responsible for Face To Face’s impressive career. They released their first album Don’t Turn Away in 1992.
So it was exciting for all of us, if only for purposes best served by nostalgia, to see what FTF would cook up with Fat for their return to the label. And it seems that what Face To Face have done as a result, rather than continue on in the vein set out by Three Chords, is to release a throwback.
Throwback records are a thing not only in punk music, but in many different genres, whereby an artist goes back to their roots after a half dozen or so albums, to reconnect and reignite the fire that burned so hot at the beginning of their career. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Actually, it usually doesn’t.
With Face To Face and Protection, whether it worked or not will depend on the listener.
If you’ve been jonesing for some classic early to mid 90’s Face To Face ever since the early to mid 90’s, then you’ll love this record. If you’re like me and have been impressed with the band’s evolution and refinement, then this record will sound like a band taking two steps forward with their last two records, and one step back with this one.
Don’t get me wrong, the record is full of great tunes. Their lead single ‘Bent But Not Broken’ is good enough to be an anthem for the upcoming summer season. It will sound great blaring from car stereos and back porches on hot days.
I guess the problem (and this will only be a problem for some of us) is that Protection sounds more like a Face To Face greatest hits record rather than a proper new release. Many of these songs sound overly familiar. I swear I’ve heard the chorus of the ferocious ‘Fourteen Fifty-Nine’ a couple of times over the years. The whoa’s of the song ‘Protection’ sound very outdated, they bring me back to Warped Tour 2002. ‘Say What You Want’ also finds the band in danger of plagiarizing itself almost note for note.
I get what the band are trying to do here. I get that in honour of returning to Fat Wreck, they wanted to tap into their past selves. For the most part, it just doesn’t work for me. I’m not writing the record off or saying I won’t ever listen to it. I’m sure there will be times when I’m feeling nostalgic and want to hear some new-old Face To Face, that the album will serve perfectly. Outside of that though, I’m hoping that their next record, regardless of what label releases it, finds the band back on the track set forth by Three Chords and a Half Truth.