Relocating from Albany, N.Y., a year ago after the breakup of pop-rock quintet The Wait, longtime bandmates Ryan Barnum, Mark Connor and Art Pierce coalesced in Raleigh as trio Strange Faces and immediately began work on a full-length. Though the three had access to the right tools to repeat The Wait's modest radio success—Eric Sarafin, who's worked with Ben Harper and Pharcyde, helmed the recording, the bulk of which was done at highly regarded Asheville studio Echo Mountain—the 10 tracks on its debut are, as the well-titled opener suggests, rather "Ordinary." The rebellious nature of lyrics about breaking from the patterns of routine life are undercut by rote guitar work typical of modern rock fare, a mildly interesting salsa-flavored bridge notwithstanding.
As on "Ordinary," most of the conflict of Barnum's songwriting is extrinsic, often focused on Man vs. Society, Barnum's resentment directed at plenty of vague pronouns. It's more forgivable when Barnum has something a little more remarkable to sing about, as on a tune written from the eyes of a trophy deer, "Aren't You Proud?"
Still, while the big-box rock such as Downtown Live does exist in the Triangle, pasteurized music doesn't exactly thrive here on the small scale. It wouldn't be altogether surprising for the Triangle scene to draw Strange Faces out of its comfort zone and into more adventurous territory in its future work. After all, Strange Faces seems competent enough to withstand those pressures.
Strange Faces plays with Richard Bacchus & the Luckiest Girls, Left Outlet and The Whale Watchers Thursday, Nov. 6, at 9 p.m. at The Pour House. Tickets are $5.