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The Faces: Five Guys Walk Into a Bar . . .


The Faces: Five Guys Walk Into a Bar . . .

Label:Warner Bros./Rhino
Genre:Rock/Pop

Ian McLagan and the Bump Band play the Mojo Room Nov. 19.

By Lee Gardner | Posted 11/17/2004

. . . and walk out four years later with engorged livers, a lone major hit (“Stay With Me”), also-ran album sales, and a collective reputation soon overshadowed by Rod Stewart’s solo success and Ron Wood’s subsequent stint in the Rolling Stones. And despite invocations by cultists over the years (paging Chris Robinson), the real punch line is that it took bespectacled hipster Wes Anderson ending Rushmore with the band’s 1973 folk-pop charmer “Ooh La La” to raise the Faces from the dead for a new generation. If their rep is gonna receive full resurrection, it’s up to this would-be enshrinement, compiled by keyboardist Ian McLagan, to do it.

It just might, and who’s to say they don’t deserve it. The lore here is revealing: McLagan, drummer Kenney Jones, and bassist/singer Ronnie Lane were what remained of the undersung British pop act the Small Faces; Wood and Stewart were refugees from Jeff Beck’s proto-Zep aggro-blues band. These castoffs combined forces and strengths to create music that drew from blues and R&B’s grit, thump, and slop, but didn’t neglect pop’s pleasing melodies and songcraft—a recipe for millions served.

If the business model didn’t exactly follow through, Five Guys does prove that they made a lot of great music and, to paraphrase one of their more iconic numbers, had them a real good time. Famed for swigging and shagging, the Faces brought that dirty-hotel-room vibe onstage and into the studio and made it a trademark: “Stay With Me” is so debauched you can smell it, and the titanic riff still sounds like it was played on a set of strings the size of a cattle gate; on raspy barroom punch-out “Pool Hall Richard” Stewart reveals that he was another one of the 700 or so people who invented rap, one barked note at a time. But McLagan’s jumbled running order, modeled on set-list thinking, also reveals the band’s artistic ambition (“Flying” and the stomping Anglo-Saxon country blues “Around the Plynth” venture into serious hard-rock territory and return unscathed), commercial wiles (the band’s polarizing disco move “You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything”), and near-endless supplies of effortless charm (Stewart doing his best Sam Cooke on “Come See Me Baby [The Cheater],” Lane’s acoustic slide lullaby “Richmond”).

This being a career-capping box set, unreleased stuff abounds—outtakes, live recordings, early rehearsal tapes, B-sides, BBC sessions. Some, like a torrid drag through the old soul smoker “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Wanna Be Right)”, go a long way toward making them seem like forgotten avatars. Others, such as a literally staggering version of “I Wish It Would Rain” and the live “I Can Feel the Fire,” prove that the Faces were mere stutter-steps away from the kind of knob-stupid bar band that never would have made it out of the corner pub in any era. But that’s perhaps part of the reason that the Faces were never bigger, and one of the more endearing things about Five Guys. None of them was such a musical genius that he could really top what he did here hereafter, and no one is more appealing than when he’s playing over his head.

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