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.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.