While a bulk of what Smog Veil puts out seems like unearthed relics from a time capsule, no less enjoyable but still noticeably dated (Rocket from the Tombs, Pistol Whip, Rubber City Rebels, etc.), Face Value’s cache, dusted off and compiled on Rode Hard, Put Away Wet sounds nearly as fresh and relevant in 2010 as it did 20 years ago. Now, that may be due in part to the relatively superior audio quality of the ‘90s, or it may just as likely be thanks to both the youth crew and thrash revival movements of recent, but for whatever reason Face Value’s style of hardcore doesn’t seem so far removed from what’s happening in punk circles today.
Furthermore, Face Value demonstrates an adroit mastery of songwriting and musicianship all too rare in hardcore music. Psycho straight-edge vocalist Tony Erba (who would go on to play bass in Havoc Records mainstay 9 Shocks Terror) shouts above the mix in a throaty, youth-crew style that often breaks down to nearly rapping, while ax-man Anthony Brown shreds unreal from hammering out complex hardcore progressions to carving out razor-sharp thrash jams.
The epic package that is Rode Hard, Put Away Wet is separated into two discs: a 31-track audio CD that spans four releases from 1989-1993 and a DVD that includes live footage from seven different shows across the country. The CD isn’t ordered in chronological fashion, but rather organized so that their LP comes first, the 1990 and 1993 EPs follow, and the band’s 1989 demo is last, which makes it a bit difficult to follow the band’s development when casually listening to the disc.
That’s not entirely necessary though, as Face Value’s consistency maintains throughout. Erba’s isolationist attitude takes the reign on the misfit anthem “Outside Looking In”: “I don’t fit in...I never did!” Another standout from The Price of Maturity LP is the minute-and-a-half band track “Face Value,” which spends the first 20 seconds winding in like “Paint it, Black” before launching full-throttle into the dicing hardcore to which the band lays claim. Within the six tracks of the Coming of Age EP, the crossover thrashing “Holding the Grudge” and slam-along “What it Meant” highlight the portion of 1990 tunes that pave the way for the more eclectic Kick It Over EP that follows. Deviating the furthest from the “base sound” of most of their catalog, this EP basks in some of the funk-thrash sound Suicidal Tendencies was taking to fame around the same time, with hip-hop breakdowns on “Myrtle Beach” and “Born a Bastard.” The band even gets a little progressive on the seven-minute “My Brother’s Keeper.” The recording quality regresses into the final portion of the CD, the band’s 1989 demo. The songs are still great (especially the raw and discordant “Coming Back to Haunt You” and reggae-infused “Give My Life”) but it seems like it would have made more sense to put these songs towards the beginning.
While the audio CD is reason enough to warrant a purchase, the DVD is a great addition to the package, and virtually overflows with content from live footage, to information about cities, scenes and venues to flyers, photos and more. Though the shows were filmed from inside the crowds and without professional audio pickup, they’re still crucial to the catalog, adding songs like “Total Loser,” “Son of a Bitch” and the excellent “Sea of Isolation” which didn't appear on the CD. Furthermore, they’re documented proof of the type of live show Face Value could put on from their intense stage presence to the energetic fan interaction expected at hardcore shows.
As if that wasn't enough, the included insert folds out to a Face Value poster on one side, and on the back includes FV-related anecdotes from contributors like Duncan Barlow of By the Grace of God, Human Furnace of Ringworm, Frank Novinec of Hatebreed and Jim Konya of 9 Shocks Terror.
Even though Face Value’s presence in the hardcore scene is now some 15 years in the past, any fan of hardcore music would be doing themselves a disservice by not checking out this release. Whether for the 31 tracks of studio brilliance or the vintage live footage found on the DVD, this is a release well worth a trip to your local record store for.