Face to Face — Face to Face

I’ll admit I feared that as I got to the start of the F’s, I was going to have to endure something that maybe I wasn’t up for: Face to Face.

I honestly didn’t remember that much about them, even though I have two of their records, and they have somehow survived every purge I’ve made to date. Two or three of their songs were staples on some key mid-80s mix tapes, but even those aren’t particularly well-remembered.

One of those tapes was called “Pictures of You.” It got the title because there were two songs by that title that came into my collection around the same time, so why not? (And neither of them was by The Cure.) One was by Berlin, the other was from this band, Face to Face.

This is what my music looked like in 1984. The technical flaws in this tape made me think some of the music, including the Face to Face songs, was not as good as it actually was.

I particularly remember “Pictures of You” (the tape, not the song) because it suffered from a very odd sound problem that affected how I experienced a lot of the songs on it. At the time, I had a tape deck that was something of a technological marvel: an autoreverse cassette deck. When it got to the end of a side, it would shift its play head and run the tape in the other direction — letting you listen to a tape all the way through without having to get up and flip it over. Now, cassettes already lasted way longer than albums did, 45 minutes to a side, so this was not a big problem, but that and a feature that was supposed to allow you to skip to the next song (which worked well when there was sufficient space between songs) made this thing quite remarkable.

And so it should have been. The problem was in the playback head: because it shifted position based on which direction the tape was playing (it may have actually spun around), it could actually get out of alignment. And when that happened, the music would lose its bottom, just a bit, and sound a bit echoey. So for many of the songs that were on that tape, including those by Face to Face, I think of them as being from a very tinny era — when in fact they were just all on a tinny sounding tape.

And yet that’s almost entirely how I remembered Face to Face. I’ve kept their records but almost never played them. Then I put on the eponymous record for purposes of this blog and . . . well, wow.

This is big, boisterous, fun anthem rock of the kind that I generally don’t have and don’t care for. It’s like a cross between Heart and Pat Benatar. But it’s pretentious in just the right ways, satisfying in its predictability, and just has that exact 1984 sound in a way that is somehow very enjoyable. It’s . . . it’s pretty great. I mean, this is fun. Some call it new wave, which I guess at that point applied to any band with synths, but really, this is pop rock; it’s not mining any new material, it’s just doing it with programmed drums.

Their song “10-9-8” was a pretty big hit, peaking at No. 38. “Under the Gun” was also released as a single, but every track is pretty good.

It turns out I also have super love for this band for work they did under another name: Fire, Inc. They were the real Attackers (of “Ellen Aim and the Attackers” fame), and Laurie Sargent provided the vocals for Ellen Aim on three songs in the epic movie “Streets of Fire.” They performed the giant hunk of Jim Steinman cheese, “Nowhere Fast,” which I just adore. I will accept no criticism of what may be the finest movie ever made, and anyone who contributed to its greatness is all right in my book.

Face to Face back cover
You know it’s 1984 because the subjects are wet. That’s how photography worked then – you just got your models wet.
Nice lyric sleeve for Face to Face
Nice lyric sleeve for Face to Face
Band pictures on the sleeve
Band pictures on the sleeve
Face to Face Epic label
Interesting that there’s a trademark after Face to Face, given that a later punk bank by the same name not only comes up higher in searches, but has actually posted some of THIS band’s videos on their channel, even though there is no relation whatsoever.

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