Face to Face needs no introduction. After all, we’re talking about a band that has been around since 1991. With 10 studio full-length releases, they have served as one of the more popular names to embody the melodic pop punk sound. It seems like these guys have done everything and been everywhere from indie labels to major labels, to touring all over the world and playing every kind of gig from tiny dive bars to huge music festivals. Through it all, they have had some iconic releases and some forgettable ones. Long time fans often site their first album which was originally released on Dr. Strange and re-released on Fat Wreck Chords titled Don’t Turn Away, as the band’s masterwork. Nine albums, and about as many label changes later, they have returned to Fat Wreck Chords on their latest release Protection…a move that many people, including Trevor Keith, regard as a homecoming of sorts.
Whatever you want to call it, make no mistake, Protection is one of the band’s best albums in their discography. It certainly gets back to the roots of the Face to Face sound that I fell in love with 25 years ago. It’s fast, melodic, and heartfelt in all the ways I remember Don’t Turn Away to be. The main difference is that the tracks, despite going back to a roots sound, show all the maturity the band has grown into over the years, and the audio production is off-the-charts-clean thanks to Bill Stevenson, Jason Livermore, and the Blasting Room.
The album kicks off with a song called Bent But Not Broken. It’s a great stop-n-go song that immediately highlights the production quality. Open guitar sustains are densely filled with classic Scott Shiflett bass stylings. The drums are poppin’ at a tempo that is very native to the band, and when the vocals finally drop, all the instrumentation pauses and you know immediately that Face to Face has returned with a banger!
As the album plays through you will be reminded of all of the qualities and subtle nuances that make this band great such as the fact that it is always nice to listen to a pop punk singer who doesn’t sound like he is 12 years old with a clothespin clamped on his nose… the fast to mid-tempo galloping drum grooves…the 1 – 4 – 5 based guitar progressions… the smooth melodies …the oo’s & ah’s…and the overall sing along vibe. Tracks like Say What You Want will conjure memories of the guitar work on Sensible from Big Choice while channeling melody stylings of Blake Schwarzenbach. Mood-wise, some songs like Double Crossed lean toward a more lighthearted vibe while others such as Fourteen Fifty-Nine bark at you with a little more edge and potent lyricism indicative of Face to Face’s maturity I wrote of earlier. Example: “I’d like to get behind you once and get glimpse of that intoxicating lie …and shove you all the way in it!”
This record puts the better side of the band on full display. For the long time fans, can you ever remember a time driving faster than you should, while shouting along to a Face to Face anthem? For brand new listeners, are you in to swift pop punk with more guts and less fluf? If so, let it be known that Face to Face just kicked out 11 new songs that may very well have you banging on the steering wheel and throwing your voice out.
4.5 out of 5 SDP Skulls
Reviewed by Todd Dulawan