When a band establishes themselves within a certain genre, it is generally pretty hard for them to break that mold. For every instance of a band releasing an album that is different and/or challenging that succeeds critically and commercially (Bad Brains' I Against I introduced a new sound and ushered in a new era for the band, and Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sounds nothing like the alt-country offerings that came before it but was hailed by critics and adored by many fans), there are several examples of bands attempting to diversify their sound and ultimately failing. Bad Religion's Into The Unknown, Neil Young's various genre exercises in the early to mid 1980's, and the notorious disco-influenced album by KISS are just a few examples of total failures from artists established within a certain sound. Even if the music is well-written and performed with sincerity, there is no guarantee that it will succeed.
Face to Face learned this lesson the hard way. They burst onto the punk scene in the beginning part of the 1990's with a series of albums that each gained the band more recognition than the last. After their song "Disconnected" was played on the radio station KROQ, the public really started to take notice, and Face to Face was on the verge of becoming serious punk superstars like some of their contemporaries. They eventually signed with A&M Records, and released their self-titled album which is a powerhouse of melodic hardcore that plays better than most bands greatest hits records.
At this point, Trever Keith and co. knew that they were at a very important crossroads. If their next album was as strong as the one they just offered, they could possibly solidify themselves as a band with a serious legacy. How strange, then, that their next album wouldn't be a punk record at all, but rather a straight-ahead heavy rock album chock full of mid-tempo songs about relationships and philosophical concepts rather than political anthems and speedy hardcore blasts.
Ignorance is Bliss is not a bad album. In fact, if one listens to it for what it is (a heavy rock record with psychedelic melodies and stellar production) then it borders on great. The interplay of the two guitars is complex without being flashy, the melodies are haunting and catchy, and the lyrics are some of the strongest that Keith has ever offered. This is the kind of record you want to listen to in your car on a cool autumn night while driving through the city after a heavy rain finally ends.
Even though Ignorance is Bliss received hearty critical acclaim, the sales were sluggish, and Face to Face soon found themselves struggling to reclaim the momentum they had going for so many years. Even though their next album, Reactionary, would be one of the best of their career, not nearly enough people heard it, and after one more attempt (How To Ruin Everything), Face to Face called it quits until 2010. The band is back on tour, but they refuse to play any of the songs from Ignorance is Bliss (probably because of a combination of bad memories and poor reactions from fans), so this album will remain an out of print oddity that only hardcore fans of the band will ever hear and get to enjoy.
Ignorance is Bliss - 9 out of 10
Here are just two examples of how great this album is:
"In Harm's Way"
"Heart of Hearts"