Bay Area punk stalwart Tony Molina’s 2014 album Dissed and Dismissed was a rush of power and melody—12 breakneck songs that blew by in about 10 minutes, reducing pop songs to their basic elements and casting aside all of the accoutrements. On its surface, Confront the Truth seems to present more of the same. It’s got the same monochromatic cover art, the same compact songs, the same abbreviated running time. So it’s a bit of a shock when the 50-second “Lisa’s Song” opens not with a drum roll or an amp squeal, but with tender acoustic guitars. That subdued mood continues for the length of Confront the Truth; ballad-heavy and strikingly beautiful, the pared-down arrangements serve to highlight Molina’s uncanny gift for melody. “Old Enough to Know” wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Elliott Smith record, guitars pirouetting slowly beneath Molina’s melancholy vocals. “Hung Up on the Dream” is a kind of minimalist “Strawberry Fields Forever,” wheezing mellotron poking holes in the songs papery framework.
The songs seem to be loosely about lost love, but it’s hard to know if the record is autobiography or genre experiment. In the end, it doesn’t much matter; Confront’s chief asset is as a showcase for Molina’s versatility. Even on the big-hearted strummer “See Me Fall,” Molina’s voice is gentle, restrained and almost uncomfortably vulnerable. “You didn’t love me, then, at all/ I know you want to see me fall,” he sighs. Rarely has sadness sounded so beautiful.
—J. Edward Keyes