Basically, a kinder, gentler version of The Offspring, with whom their path crossed throughout their 13-year career, Face to Face explored the melodic side of the So Cal skate punk scene. And that is what co-founder, singer, and guitarist Trever Keith has captured on the Shoot the Moon: The Essential Collection retrospective. Keith manned the Face to Face ship from its 1991 launch and established a cult following, before finally hanging it up after a 2004 farewell tour.
Bouncing back and forth between a three-piece and a four-piece unit over the years, Keith teamed up with various combinations of bassists (co-founder Matt Riddle and Scott Shiflett), drummers (Rob Kurth and Pete Parada), and an extra guitarist (Chad Yaro) to produce a few noteworthy albums, a clunker or two, and a decent live document. Pulling 21 tracks from five albums, Shoot the Moon: The Essential Collection lives up to its name by distilling the best of Face to Face’s work into a single disc package.
While 1992’s Don’t Turn Away was a regional breakout and contained some strong individual cuts (including “Disconnected”, the band’s first single and breakout song, which has been released, remixed, re-released, and re-released again, and “Pastel”), it was their two major label releases that provide the best argument for the band’s legitimacy. Songs like “Velocity” and “A-OK” off of 1995’s Big Choice and “Ordinary” off of 1996’s Face to Face are the strongest of the band’s catalogue.
The opening moments of “Velocity” recall the melody that defines Dada’s only single of note, “Dizz Knee Land”, from three years earlier, but it segues into a perfectly rollicking guitar riff and pumping drums that work nicely with Keith’s self-absorbed lyrics (“So let me take a good look at your perfect life / So I know just exactly how I don’t want mine”). With lines like “I don’t know what you want from me / But it’s probably already gone / And I don’t care what you think of me / Your opinion means nothing at all” and a charging refrain of “Don’t say I’m ok!”, “A-OK” is another track from Big Choice that represents the band, vibe, scene, and time from which it comes. Face to Face‘s “Ordinary” treads in much of the same territory as the Big Choice selections, employing a sped up verse tempo and a slowed, melodic chorus formula.
The three live tracks are nothing revelatory from a music perspective, but they do a nice job of illustrating the energy Face to Face were able to generate onstage, particularly on “I’m Trying”. But, frankly, the previously unreleased “Thick as a Brick” could have stayed in the vault.
Face to Face is a band that struggled unsuccessfully to find an identity and ended up borrowing heavily from the influences of the day—everything from pop-punk to skate punk to prog-punk (on 1999’s ill-conceived and poorly received Ignorance is Bliss which is, well, blissfully ignored on this compilation). And maybe that is ultimately Face to Face’s character: A band that tried, but was never quite able, to grab the brass ring.