I know, I know. Someone in my position is supposed to be the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-hearing critic and the fact that I personally have been involved in this game for over twenty years means that I’ve known, seen and heard a lot: some good, some bad, some too fucking dumb for words. I’ve also missed out on a lot and, believe it or not, I haven’t heard every band that’s ever existed (On that note, you really should consider tuning to Hellbound Radio every Sunday from 9-midnight EST on www.indifm.ca; my colleague Albert Mansour never fails to turn up every week armed to the teeth with bands no one has ever heard of… but I digress). So, when this little gem turned up, I had to ask myself, “Who?” After I came across the mentions of “Cleveland hardcore” in the liner notes, it was another “Who?” moment.
Admittedly, beyond the title of Phil Collins album I really like, the name Face Value doesn’t register much, despite the proclamations of the band being an important figure of late 80s/early 90s Clevo HC. But hey, the good folks at Smog Veil have made it so that if you’re interested, you don’t have to spend a bunch of time and money tracking down their out of print albums and EPs. And, yes, you should be interested. Face Value may have been a completely unknown property to yours truly until about a month ago – yeah, it took me a while to get off my butt and write this – but they were a pretty fucking sweet band. Where the forward-thinking hardcore bands of the time embarked upon a course of combining ‘core with metal riffing and mosh tempos, Face Value spit-balling together punk/hardcore’s fury and speed with classic rock sensibilities, jacked up rhythms and guitar hero soloing.
Included on the audio portion of this massive collection are the band’s ’89 demo, Clevo Hardcore, a 7” from 1990 called Coming of Age, ‘91’s The Price of Maturity LP and, for some unexplained reason, only half of their final release from ‘93, the Kick it Over LP. And from beginning to end, Face Value was different. At various times, they mixed the hardcore of Minor Threat and Agnostic Front with the crossover of Excel and Crumbsuckers alongside Raw Power’s After Your Brain album with healthy doses of AC/DC, B.T.O., E.L.O. (there’s one song on Coming of Age that absolutely borrows from “Don’t Bring Me Down”) and enough Frank ‘Mahogany Rush’ Marino bluesy leadwork to get hipsters out of skinny jeans and into bellbottoms (again). There are moments when their mélange brings to mind the whole scene that spawned bands like Mindfunk, Scat Opera and Big Drill Car, but without the suck factor.
The DVD portion basically consists of a couple songs here and there from various shows played throughout the very early 90s. No, you’re not going to get much high quality production here – though some of the footage is remarkably decent, especially soundwise – but you do get a feel for the band, just how much of rabble rouser frontman Tony Erba was and how in various permutations, guitarist ‘Downtown’ Anthony Brown and whatever fill-in bassist they had at the time looked like the inspirations for Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob.