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Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions) - Fat Wreck Chords
Iconic 90’s melodic punk band Face to Face has enjoyed a fruitful mid-career resurgence. The band has released three notable full lengths since 2011, all further updating the band’s sound over their twenty-plus year career. But when you’ve been at it for as long as the Victorville quartet, you’ve got to keep things fresh for both yourself and longtime fans. So for their latest full length, the band has opted to shake things up and explore their acoustic side.
The concept of aging punk bands stripping down for acoustic recordings seems to be timely, with label mates Strung Out exploring the same approach mere months earlier, and Fat Wreck Chords’ releasing an acoustic compilation, Mild in the Streets, a year or so before. I can only imagine that a twenty-plus year career begs for more creative opportunities as the clock ticks, and when you’re pushing fifty, a retrospective acoustic album probably marks a tempting bucket list item.
Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions) is perhaps best described as an album of acoustic reimaginings. Much like with Strung Out, Face to Face takes significant liberties in redefining the tempos, vocals, and overall flow of each track. In fact, only a minority of the songs maintain similar song structures as their origins. Opener “All or Nothing” entirely scales back the melodic pitter patter that has come to define EpiFat legacy bands, and replaces it with chilled out, percussion-free strumming and a faint country twang originating from what sounds like a pedal steel. Acoustic chords resonate with crisp production, making for a sound in which front man Trever Keith has never sounded so relaxed. The track will entirely catch fans off guard, and I can pretty much guarantee that it will take fans a couple listens to become acclimatized. “Shame On Me” feels just as mellow, replacing anthemic choruses with sweeping yet breezy chords that brings to mind atmospheric Santana solos. An odd reference point, but one I feel is quite accurate in such a case. In a word, “peaceful” could be used to summarize many of these tracks. “Velocity” and “Disconnected” in particular align with such a descriptor.
Only a handful of tracks take on the energizing factor typical of Face to Face’s career. “Don’t Turn Away” meshes the aforementioned country twang with a brisk tempo, while “Keep Your Chin Up” and “Bill of Goods” feel more upbeat and aggressive, like you’d probably expect the album to sound like upon entry. These songs will come more intuitively, but they’re also relatively safe.
Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions) is a curious document that reflects Face to Face’s ongoing journey and present state of mind. I often think that the abrupt passing of the late Tony Sly and unexpected conclusion to No Use For A Name’s career served as a catalyst for many EpiFat bands to explore the creative projects nestled at the back of their minds. It would be a shame if such projects remained merely as hypotheticals or lost opportunities, so it’s encouraging to see Face to Face break from their comfort zone and explore their softer side, even if certain songs may be a little more mellow than some fans might have expected.