You Can’t Stay Ignorant Forever


We all know that the pantheon of music is cluttered with irascible, miserable bastards. The list of mopey, depressive rock stars that have achieved international fame and unanimous acclaim is never-ending: Morrisey, Kurt Cobain, Thom Yorke, Jim Morrison, Jeff/Tim Buckley, Ian Curtis, Trent Reznor, Elliott Smith…all just the tip of the iceberg.

Part of what I like about independent music and young bands is that their music is usually a touch more on the bright side of things, at least for a few albums. That’s before the music industry and the nearly-impossible task of trying to make a living making music grinds them down completely. But every once in a while, the transition between the two extremes can be completely mesmerizing. 

Earlier this week, pop-punk band Face to Face announced they’ll be playing a “reuinion show” at Bamboozle Left. Now, for most of their career, I think Face to Face was pretty unremarkable. They gained some level of fame for their energetic, melodic punk rock, at one time even going through the major label grinder. Their fans are typically either pre- or post-adolescent skate rats or jock types that go through a punk phase. Which is cool — it happens to most of us.

In 1999, however, they released what I maintain is by far their most accomplished and unique recording, the album Ignorance Is Bliss. It’s a blatant, reactionary set of songs responding to their unceremonious dumping from the A&M Records roster, a collection of numbers that expose the raw nerve of self-doubt and overwhelming sense of failure felt by frontman/songwriter Trever Keith.  ”In Harm’s Way” is an excellent summation of the album’s content, lamenting how quickly a label’s support can dissipate when a young band fails to move enough units to satisfy the suits.

The obvious lack of confidence and sense of bewilderment in the lyrics belies the unexpectedly self-assured shift in the bands musical aesthetic. While there are still some decidedly up-tempo songs here, a lot of the material takes on a slower, more atmospheric, meditative sound. It’s a surprisingly mature overhaul of the band’s sound.

Of course, when your fan base is mostly made up of kids who think four chords is one more than you really need, such a stylistic shift doesn’t come without consequences. The band attempted to tour in support of Ignorance Is Bliss, but that venture was quickly aborted due to a tepid response from CD buyers and show-goers alike. The band almost-immediately abandoned the record altogether, moving on to one of the most abhorrent marketing gimmicks I’ve ever witnessed: not only were the songs written and recorded for their next album a complete backslide to their previous, more generic sound, but the band also decided to post every track they recorded during the album sessions on and told fans they could decide which ones would be on the record by voting for their favourites. They essentially admitted defeat; if you don’t like the music we put on our records, then just tell us what you’d be willing to pay for and that’s what we’ll give you. No point in growing artistically when the financial implications are unfavourable, right?

While they would go on to release a couple more albums and regain much of their previous popularity, in my mind they never really recovered. Band members left, the band reverted even more into their old writing style, and went through the motions before breaking up about five years ago.

Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that Ignorance Is Bliss now reads like a blueprint for the glut of “emo” bands choking independent label rosters these days, much like Weezer’s Pinkerton was a few years earlier. Perhaps if the band had held it in their back pocket for five or six years it would’ve launched them to the next level. Who knows.

So why does this matter? Well, in addition to announcing their temporary reformation, Keith also stated that he would be releasing a solo album called, Melancholics Anonymous in the next few weeks that he says, “picks up where Ignorance Is Bliss left off.” I think that’s good news.

Depressing rock stars. So much better (musically) when they just embrace their demons and write the hell out of some songs. 

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