Cutouts Gone Wild!: Mr. Mister, “I Wear the Face”

Written by Cutouts Gone Wild!, Music

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Mr. Mister – I Wear the Face (1983)
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Well, well, well. If it isn’t Mr. Mister.

First things first: I have to give credit where it’s due here — if it weren’t for the impassioned words of our pal Kurt, who favorably compared the Misters to XTC in an old Chartburn, I might never have realized I had a copy of this fossil on my shelf. In fact, I probably would have gone the rest of my life without listening to it again.

Wait, did I say “give credit”? I think I meant “lay blame.”

Mr. Mister frequently gets a pass from critics and music geeks with long memories — mainly because the guys in the band were all great musicians, which has always struck me as a little unfair. I mean, why should anyone care about your talent if you spend most of your time squandering it on lowest-common-denominator crap?

Which brings us to I Wear the Face. Which face, you ask? If you squint, it looks like Toto, only smaller — which is absolutely fitting, since lead Mister Richard Page would go on to reject an invitation to join Toto. And Chicago. It’s almost enough to make you think that guys capable of singing lines like “The code of love should never be broken / The code of love — words remain unspoken” are in short supply, isn’t it?

So yeah, Mr. Mister — which, for the record, consisted of Page (lead vocals, bass), Steve George (synths, saxophones), Steve Farris (guitar), and Pat Mastelotto (drums) — boasted a lot of musical firepower. But here’s almost everything you need to know about this album:

1. It contains a “synthesizers and saxophones” credit.
2. One track was co-written by the band’s manager, one George Ghiz (snicker).
3. Said track was the single.

Let’s talk about that single, actually. “Hunters of the Night”, for all its vaunted pedigree, sounds an awful lot like Jack Wagner’s “Premonition,” which was created using Clif Magness, Glen Ballard, and a pack of batteries. My point isn’t that one act was better than the other, but that both of them were sort of lame — and most importantly, that this is just what rock music tended to sound like in 1983.

Of course, given that the Mr. brand of lame was so completely in step with the flavor of the era, it bears pointing out that they don’t deserve extra criticism. Songs like “I’ll Let You Drive” are dumb enough to make a person cry, but they still could have been hits; it took a spectacular lack of effort on RCA’s part to miss the bullseye with this band. Rather than going down as two-hit wonders, the Misters should have been one of the bigger bands of the mid-to-late ’80s — they had the look, the synths, and the obligatory song titled “Runaway.” This crap doesn’t hold up 25 years later, but really, what does?

Other than old XTC records, I mean?