I can't even start to say that this record was disappointing. Because I've been following Face to Face for years I'll open with something positive. "Waiting to be saved" is a great song. Unfortunately, not as many of the songs are.
Face to face hit their stride in their musical output with the s/t and the live album, one of the few live albums that deserve to be owned even if you own the recorded versions of the songs. They went to record again, and came out with Ignorance is Bliss. To some regarded as a deathblow, this is my favorite Face to Face album. It showed them going against the grain, and they came up with a powerful and explosive album of musical layers and sultry melancholy. Some called them sell outs (cause poser went out of style in the early decade), but the true sell out would come with Reactionary. I liked Reactionary but it was hard not to notice the band's lack of enthusiasm with the record. In interviews, Trever made comments to the effect that after Ignorance's failure amongst most fans if all they wanted was a punk record, they'd make them their punk record. He stated that after they started working on Reactionary he started coming around and got a more positive attitude but it was hard to not to feel like the band was disillusioned. The title of the album is Reactionary. To those of us politically minded a reactionary is defined (dictionary.com) "Characterized by reaction, especially opposition to progress or liberalism; extremely conservative.". This was when they sold out. When they changed their sound just to please other people, in this case, their own impossible to please fans. I felt extremely sad that a band did what they wanted to and got called a sell out, then they do what is the very definition of selling out and they get welcomed back into their fans punk rock DIY arms.
How to Ruin Everything comes off as if the band has lost their identity that they didn't get back after Ignorance is Bliss got the cold shoulder. They seem energetic, the songs sound alright, but it sounds like a band only half interested in really comitting themselves to a scene that really only wants an average boring SoCal album. There are some highlights. "Wolf in sheep's clothing", "Shoot the moon", "Waiting to be saved", and the lyrical twist on Fugazi's words in "the compromise" make up the best parts of the record. The rest is off and on. Trever's vocals sound too forced to be raw, and the songs try to be anthemic to the point of wondering if Face to Face wants to be British living in '77 except they're obviously not.
With the last couple records, I have hope. The b-sides for the last 3 albums have been better than most of the songs on those albums. My favorite F2F song ever, "For You" has never been released and was recorded during Reactionary. I have high hopes for the b-sides disc that comes with pre-orders.
In closing, If you like F2F, buy it, its good enough for now, its better than Strung Out's new showing, but falls short of what I expected. I hope the band the best, and maybe it'll grow on me.