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FOOLS FACE (Buy CDs by this artist)
Here to Observe (Bar-Co) 1979
Tell America (Talk) 1981
Public Places (Talk) 1983
The Red Tape [tape] (Fools Face) 1984
Fools Face (self-released) 2002

In its original skinny-tie incarnation, this raucous fivesome from Springfield, Missouri combined the rough-and-tumble appeal of an ace bar band with diverse pop songwriting talent. Everyone except drummer Tommy Dwyer wrote and sang, displaying the diverse influence of the Stones, Beatles, soft pop, Little Richard, Led Zeppelin and Bowie.

Here to Observe is an irrepressible low-budget debut that demonstrates how a band can get and hold a listener's attention (by expending nonstop energy). The even-better Tell America finds Fools Face overdue (and anxious) for major-label exposure, with enthusiasm now matched by sophisticated melodies, rich harmonies and razor-sharp musicianship. Highlights include keyboardist Dale McCoy's "American Guilt" and guitarist Jimmy Frink's "L5," a science-fiction fantasy.

Public Places is more of the same: a slick and sophisticated major-league-quality album of flawless high-voltage melodic rock still on the band's own label. But still no takers from the big leagues.

Recorded as a quartet (without guitarist Brian Coffman, off to join Single Bullet Theory), the so-called Red Tape is an untitled cassette-only album offered to fans, containing eight excellent new songs with a more aggressive rock sound underneath the same attractive pop melodicism.

Fools Face relocated to Los Angeles in late 1984 and later disbanded. Half the band eventually returned to the Midwest; the others stayed in California. Bassist Jim Wirt opened a recording studio and became a successful engineer and producer, working with Fiona Apple, the Plimsouls, Incubus and others.

Adding a delightful coda to the story, the original fivesome — looking solidly adult but none the worse for nearly two decades' wear in the upbeat insert photo — regrouped to write and record (in LA and MO) the self-titled album, which they issued in a limited edition at the start of 2002. Neither trendy nor nostalgic, Fools Face proffers 16 songs of beautifully sung and loudly played rock melodicism that glows with the evident pleasure of making music for all the right reasons.

[Jon Young/Ira Robbins]