Review: They Had Faces Then – 1977

Artist: They Had Faces Then
Album: 1977
Genre: Rock
Label: Unsigned

For every screechtastic scene band out there, there’s another one quite happy to find their voice in a kind of beautiful simplicity. They still sound heavy, crafted, moody and imprecise, but it succeeds somehow in fashioning something a little more thought-provoking and memorable. They Had Faces Then appear to be this kind of a band.

Throughout their gorgeous, studied EP 1977, the band work hard to create a meditative, serene atmosphere, cutting swarths of grey banality next to the inventiveness and gentle beauty of their music. The singing is soft, assured, broken every now and then by little sparks of guitar that introduce some brief and subdued fireworks into the mire. Collectively, it echoes REM’s rhythmic smoothness, while the mellifluous guitar work has elements of early, little known My Chemical Romance (Early Sunsets over Monroeville springing most clearly to mind).

The record spends much of its initial four songs moping quite decoratively, content to assuage the restrained vocals with atmosphere and imagery, with little pomp and circumstance. It’s well-put together and certainly makes for a delightful listen. It takes a sharp turn with the introduction of “Shepherds,” something far more bold and brash than what has gone before. Ken de Poto’s voice keeps everything quite tranquil though the band kicks into a higher gear, unveiling more ardor and immediacy to offset the whimsical musings that went before. It creates a fine contrast and tinges the slightly formulaic sound of the record, which was heretofore in danger of dwelling too long on one perfectly evoked mood.

“Song 45,” the concluding song on the EP, is similar. Maintaining the moist refrains of the foregoing, it adds some more electricity and resonance with some striking guitar notes, upping the mood and meandering round the stillness and yearning of the verse. It’s all quite lovely and poetic – it sounds luminous – though there appears to be little in the way of real substance. They Had Faces Then certainly mean to sound a certain way and do so quite faultlessly, though taking a few liberties here and there might have rewarded them more.

In summary, this is a finely realized odyssey, plaintive and lush with lots of gorgeous instrumentation and a pristine atmosphere. It reminds me slightly of the exemplary La Dispute, except with mood and melody taking precedence over brawn and prose. That said, it doesn’t quite pack the same sucker punch as the latter, and it may not linger long in the mind after you’ve spun it. But you’ll definitely play it again, and revel in it again, and for this it must be celebrated.

Rating: 7/10
Review Written By: Grace Duffy

STREAM: “Carter (Daniel, You See?)”
They Had Faces Then – Carter (Daniel, You See?) by under_the_gun

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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