Facing Changes / Hangnail Acoustic
- reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
Since the pre-teen collaborations of guitarist Nick Radovanovic and drummer Jacob Dosemagen, Hangnail knew they wanted to rock and roll for a living. Hangnail didn't start out as a Christian band, but hoped to rise to fame just like their heroes, such as Weezer, Nirvana, and Green Day. Due to time spent at church and encouragement from family and friends, Hangnail decided to play for a higher purpose prior to their record deal with BEC Recordings.
It was that 1999 self-titled debut that propelled this Kenosha, Wisconsin-based band on 7 tours for more than 200 shows across the nation. During that time of opening for the likes of Ghoti Hook, Element 101, Stavesacre, and Dogwood, Hangnail won over hundreds of fans at a time and sold more than 10,000 CDs. Amazingly enough, the band was able to do all that with three members attending college and another working full-time.
Despite all the adventure the last two years have brought the group, they had enough energy to get into the studio for their sophomore follow-up Facing Changes, as well as record a second project, the 6-track EP Hangnail Acoustic. The EP is available for free to the first 5,000 buyers of Facing Changes, and it will be released later this year by itself at a reduced price. With all that said, Hangnail has made a lot of changes, not only growing up personally, but also musically evolving beyond a typical adolescent punk band.
The evolution results in a more appealing, straight-out rock sound on Facing Changes without as many fist-pumping punk jams and the lyrical clichÉs that often coincide with the genre. The group goes back to their earlier influences, such as Weezer, and is able to tone down the volume and speed so listeners can understand what the group is saying. The opening cut, "Wrong Is Wrong," boasts a bold rock sound similar to mainstream market sophomores Oleander and Shades Apart. Radovanovic and Matt Wendt's dueling guitar thrashing makes "Closemouthed Concern" another standout of hard-hitting emotion. "Carry Me" features a bit of the group's harmonizing in the midst of catchy guitar fury while singer/songwriter and bass player Mike Middleton sings of misdirection in life and the need for God to carry him over the rough waters.
Although Middleton writes mostly short songs with just enough verses to get by, he thematically touches on topics deeper than most within the alternative rock genre. On the disc's most energetic track, "Commitment Unbreakable," he discusses the struggles a new Christian may have while breaking away from the destructive trends of his past life. The title cut, which begins with a glam-metal guitar solo and mixes the styles of Philmore and Value Pac, speaks of the depression he faced when putting faith in friends before God.
As if those songs weren't reason enough to buy the album, there's the acoustic EP included in the jewel case that strips down the rockers for a coffeehouse-styled set. But unlike bands at some coffee shops who merely provide background music, Hangnail will catch listener's ears with their vibrant melodies and clever arrangements. "Double Standard" begins with a guitar lick similar in style to the Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black." Other highlights are the '80s-inspired ballad "Decision Making," which is in the vein of Styx or Glass Tiger, and the closing "No Name Yet," which has a retro beat like one-hit wonders Alias or Bad English. It's impressive to hear a punk/grunge rock band strip down its sound and come up with clever arrangements—few bands of similar sound can pull it off as well as Hangnail does. With such a diverse range of sounds on both projects, Hangnail has clearly made it to the next level, heightening the potential for them to develop as long-lasting artists.