The title of Face To Face’s recently released retrospective, “Shoot the Moon,” references a song of the same name on the group’s extraordinary swansong, 2002’s How To Ruin Everything. The track, as catchy as the avian flu, is also one of the most weathered and mature pop punk song’s I’ve ever heard. Singer/guitarist/only long-term group member Trevor Keith’s voice barks out disillusioned and brilliant lines like “Back in ’95 when this was new / I really didn’t have a clue / thought the world would change with the right song,” displaying a bitter, caustic lyrical bent that in many ways paved the way for newer groups like Alkaline Trio and The Lawrence Arms, over catchy power chords, and a great guitar solo. The problem with Shoot the Moon (the album) can be summed up by the following piece of information: the song “Shoot the Moon,” despite being one of the best in Face To Face’s catalog and the name of the album, does not appear on the disc itself. Only two tracks from all of How to Ruin Everything are included; raucous opener “Bill of Goods,” and the average “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.”
There is nothing from the band’s penultimate release, the creative and extremely well done covers album Standards and Practices. There is nothing from the controversial Reactionary or the overlooked Ignorance is Bliss. There is nothing from their very good split with the Dropkick Murphys.
What is present in place of these oversights? A hook-filled punk album that makes the varied, emotional Face to Face seem like a one trick pony without a good trick. Nearly every track on the album has an identical tempo, and an identical chord progression. God knows why the band chose the tracks they did- maybe they were the most fun to play live or the most fun to record, but by the album’s end, they create a suffocating feeling of deja vus. Hell, the band bookends the album with two versions of their mediocre radio hit, “Disconnected,” the studio version as an opening track and a live take to end the album. Easily one of the weakest tracks in the band’s catalog, the song is an ode to the teenage awkwardness, but cannot rise above overused sentiment like “you don’t know a thing about me” and “I could tell you what you want to hear / just let your inhibitions go!”
There is no sense of development or progression over the course of the disc, but that makes sense, when one takes into account the scant representation from the second half of the band’s catalog. The lyrical content of the selected songs are the kind of phrases that sound great being shouted out in the middle of a mosh pit (I have fond memories of screaming along to “You Lied” at the Warped Tour a few years back), but are also slogans they print on shirts and sell for 25 bucks at hot topic. I don’t want to sound cynical, frumpy and old, but Face to Face were so much more than the straightforward pop punk band they appear as here.
If you are a band that only has 1 radio hit, why bother putting it as the first track and last track on your greatest hits? It negates the value of the songs in between, and, especially when that hit isn’t all that good, begins and ends the album on a mediocre not. Face to Face have a legacy to leave behind, and let’s just hope future generations of kids in chucks and spiked leather jackets don’t get the wrong impression from Shoot the Moon. Just two years ago, the band ended their last album with a beautiful acoustic number sporting the refrain “you know I’ll go running out and ruin everything.”
Yeah, pretty much.
Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper
For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.
So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.
On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.
The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.
Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill
The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good
One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.
They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.
The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.
Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.
The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.