Face Time

I used to love The Face. Between the late 80s and early 00s I bought almost every copy (and many of them are in the loft, awaiting a good sifting through). Yes, it was silly, pretentious, over-the-top, often very London-centric, and over-styled. But it was also done well, trend setting, at times laugh-out-loud funny, with some really good writers, totally hit the spot at times (and completely missed the target other times), covered issues as well as music and fashion, and its front cover felt like an event- in short essential monthly reading, a frippery but worth it.

Above, the Madchester issue, in which Nick Kent made up quotes various interviewees allegedly said… and below Tricky and Martina Topley Bird

I bought a copy in summer 1987, a double sized, special edition, 100th issue I think. It tried to review the 80s- ‘whatever happens now’ it said, ‘the decade is shaped, nothing can alter the way it looks from here’. Arf. Over the next two years acid house swept the nation, the north rose again, the Berlin Wall came down, Communism collapsed…. 

The pleasure of reading old magazines is seeing where they got it right and where they got it very, very wrong; the bands, records, trends and styles they were sure were the next big thing and are now buried in the ‘where are they now?’ file. I mean, no disrespect to The Farm (who at times I quite like) and I know Groovy Train was a big hit but ‘How to succeed in the music business’? 

Whatever it did though, The Face was rarely boring and for a while it did document our lives (or aspects of them). 
Raving, Aliens, Vodka, Discos, Ibiza… it’s got the lot.

                                                                 Mmmmmmm, Kylie.

                                                     Sorry, lost myself there for a moment…

                                         Actually I don’t remember this 90s Futures Issue one at all.

I more or less stopped buying it with this issue below- I was clearly too old for it, our time together had passed and besides I began to feel they were laughing at me.

The High Numbers (early Who as I’m sure you know). I was going to post the magnificent Face Up by New order from Lowlife but it’s not on my hard drive and I can’t be arsed ripping it at the moment. Laziness. Sorry. This is good anyway.

I’m The Face


I Got A Letter From The Government The Other Day…

… opened it and read it, it said they were suckers.

Is as good an opening line for a song as any I can think of. In fact, the receiving of a letter is a good starting point for songs generally- Jimmy Cliff’s Vietnam, Son House’s Death Letter both spring to mind. It could die out within a generation couldn’t it?- I was cc’d into an email last week doesn’t carry the same drama.

Tricky’s cover version of the Public Enemy song Black Steel In the Hour Of Chaos is one of those covers that is better than the original. The clattering beats, the female lead vocal shifting everything from the original around, the full on bass, the descending punk guitar riff- this is one of the best songs of the 90s and one of the few Tricky songs I can come back to time and time again. And there was a guitar heavy remix on the 12″ that was even better.

Black Steel

Gypsy Rose Lee got more than a letter from her government- she was investigated by Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare of the early 50s. You’ve got to watch those burlesque artistes- Commies every last one of them.

Five Man Army

It’s a bit difficult to imagine now the impact Massive Attack had back at the turn of the 90s. Their debut lp, Blue Lines, had people who never normally bought that kind of thing listening to little else. On top of that, here was a British group, doing breakbeats, reggae, soul and rap properly. With Bristol accents. Almost all of that first lp is top stuff- Safe From Harm with it’s massive sampled bassline (from Stratus by Billy Cobham) and paranoia, the gorgeous Hymn Of The Big Wheel, Horace Andy singing Be Thankful For What You’ve Got, the lighter than air Daydreaming (with Tricky)…. and Unfinished Sympathy- contender for greatest British single of the decade ever, I’d have thought. This one ain’t too shabby either-

Five Man Army

I don’t think they’ve ever pulled it off again in such style, although the songs Protection (especially) and Teardrop are as good as anything on Blue Lines. But as a whole the subsequent albums didn’t repeat the trick for me. Protection has good songs but doesn’t feel as whole. Fallings out and shedding members they then became darker and darker, not enough light to balance things up. Angel is superb, a trip-hop Joy Division, but Mezzanine was an oppressive listen. Whereas Blue Lines was a joy from start to finish.