Punk rock is no stranger to the California region, and Face to Face is one of their ‘90s mainstays. This West Coast crew from Victorville formed in 1991, released seven full-length albums, went on hiatus and then returned for three more post-2008. The band features former members of bands like the Offspring, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and the Saves the Day. With their newest release, Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions), Face to Face have stripped down some of their most memorable tracks for this ten-track compilation.
Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions) regales us with some of Face to Face’s pure ‘90s hits, such as “Disconnected,” which was popular enough at the time to be featured in the films Tank Girl and National Lampoon’s Senior Trip. This version takes away the gritty pop-punk sound of the original, recognizable hit and focuses more on the pure aspects of the track such as the vocals, which have clearly been improved as vocalist Trevor Keith sings in a serious tone compared to the punk attitude of the early band. It’s hard not to smile at the cute, sweetness oozing from a track that is truly unplugged from the original. The harmonies, as they are on most of this record, are greatly emphasized – as the tracks are expanded with all sort of notes hit by the backup singers.
The record isn’t all slowed down, though. “Keep Your Chin Up” still keeps its fun spirit, and just flips it to more of an anthemic rock song. It proves that acoustic cover tracks do not have to sound like an MTV special from Nirvana. The guitar work is part of the album’s highlight as the guitar (which sounds like the 12 string) creates the same effect that the background harmonies due on the previously mentioned track. It’s arguably more enjoyable than the original 2016 track off of Protection.
Both of “Keep Your Chin Up” and “Don’t Turn Away” almost have an Irish flair to them, reminiscent of bands like Dropkick Murphys when they are stripped down. “Don’t Turn Away” even has a country characteristic, with the addition of the slide guitar complementing Keith’s distinct vocals.
“Ordinary” begins with fast-paced acoustic riffs that are Violent Femmes-like in nature. It completely flips from the original punk version from 1996 which sounds more like NOFX than any folk groups. Because of this, the track becomes more complicated and fans will look at it in a new light.
Overall, Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions) is exactly as advertised – stripped down versions of a band’s catalog. It doesn’t do anything necessarily unique, as it is pretty similar to most acoustic rock albums, with the exception of a few different genre fusions, but for any old-school fans of Face to Face, it will most likely be looked at a welcomed addition to the band’s lucrative discography.