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Facing Changes/Hangnail Acoustic
Artist: Hangnail
Label: BEC Recordings
Times: Facing Changes: 12 tracks/39:19 minutes
Hangnail Acoustic: 6 tracks/20:33 minutes

Hangnail is back. It's a double volume, Facing Changes and Hangnail Acoustic, and I'm having trouble figuring out which I like better -- the punk or the acoustic CD. BEC will divide the two volumes and sell them separately after the first pressing has run its course. If you enjoyed the sound of "Worthless" or "Making History," from its first self-titled 1999 project, get one of the first 5,000 copies of this project. If you've never heard the band before, take a look at the roster of folks they've toured with for a clue: Dogwood, Stavesacre, Philmore, Element 101, and Ghoti Hook.

Addressing these projects separately, Facing Changes is a step forward from Hangnail, as it is more refined in its arrangements, with slightly better hooks, perhaps following influences from Dogwood or MxPx. The band launches this volume with an incredibly enticing and keenly focused "Wrong is Wrong" and sticks with that formula throughout the entire project. My favorites in this style are "Carry Me," "Real Life Illustration," "Take for Granted," the title track, and "Home Sick." Just start with "Wrong is Wrong," and if you like the music style, you'll enjoy the rest of this volume. If not, wait! There's Hangnail Acoustic.

Hangnail recorded the bonus collection because the band performed some live unplugged radio songs and they liked the results. I do, too. It's a fascinating listen. There is plenty of acoustic folk guitar as well as Spanish guitar ("Double Standard"), light orchestration ("Carry Me"), piano ("Closemouthed Concern") and a hammered dulcimer ("Decision Making"). This side of Hangnail is intriguing because the band focuses more on the lyrics in these longer renditions than they do in the punk set. Hangnail is not blindly following an "unplugged" trend but is complementing its work with arrangements that transcend the band's debut project.

The lyrics from both volumes are solid. Most center on the writers' relationships with God. Lyricist/writer Mike Middleton explains, "Closemouthed Concern" (on both volumes) is a good song about "all my friends who claim to have a relationship with Christ but didn't show any signs of that through their lifestyle." Unfortunately, it falls into the trite trap of being an overly didactic second-person sermon. I prefer the tone of the title track, dealing with self-examination of the writer's own relationship with Christ.

A major shortfall of both collections is they are too short! Both projects fly by too quickly. I want more! The main project is less than 40 minutes, and Hangnail Acoustic barely 20. What there is of it is a very fine move in the right direction for this band. Hangnail's come a long way in their eight years of existence, but there's plenty of room for more growth and maturity. Hangnail is on the verge of making a truly excellent recording. Facing Changes/Hangnail Acoustic comes close.

Olin Jenkins 7/15/2001

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