REVIEW: Faith No More – Angel Dust (2 LP and 2 CD editions)

FAITH NO MORE – Angel Dust (1992/1993, Slash Records 2 LP and 2 CD editions)

This is my favourite Faith No More record.  I’m not sure why, but after a couple struggled listens, I suddenly fell for its intricate, bizarre arrangements.  The story goes that Faith No More, the ultimate antithesis to a commercial band, were sick of playing The Real Thing‘s songs live for the past 2 years.  They were eager to stray as far away from that sound as possible.  In addition, Mike Patton had just completed the cult classic debut Mr. Bungle album.  I speculate that this helped spark the sometimes unhinged creative moments on this album, particularly the vocals.

Guitarist Jim Martin and the band were butting heads, and most of the songs were written without him.  Mike Bordin, Roddy Bottom and Billy Gould would send him virtually complete songs, which he then “grafted” guitar parts onto.  In a guitar magazine interview, Martin stated that he thought some of the songs were better before he added the guitar.

Angel Dust commences with double shot of weirdness:  “Land of Sunshine” and “Caffeine”.  Patton pieced together the lyrics to “Land of Sunshine” from a collection of fortune cookies.  Musically it is dramatic, keyboard heavy and foreboding.  “Caffeine” is dark and aggressive, but is Patton’s first bonafide knockout vocal on the album.  From the ominous, gravelly lows to off the wall screams, Patton delivers.  His voice knows no limits on Angel Dust and I consider this the peak album for his vocals.

The first single “MidLife Crisis” was about as close as it gets to a commercial track.  You can certainly hear every nu-metal band in the world (Korn! I’m looking at you Jonathan Davis!) ripping off Patton’s gutteral vocal stylings.  But he lets it soar in the choruses.  The bizarre pseudo-rapped  verses, the samples, and the anthemic, layered choruses all pointed to new directions for Faith No More.  The ingredients had never really combined like “MidLife Crisis” before.

Then perhaps the most bizarre song, “R.V.”  The lullaby-like piano backs a grizzly soliloquy from Patton, via Tom Waits, playing a trailer park trash character.  “Somebody taps me on the shoulder every five minutes.  Nobody speaks English anymore!  Would anybody telll me if I was gettin’…stupider?”  Once the novelty value wears off, it’s still a cool tune due to the powerful choruses.  Patton nails another awesome lead vocal on the chorus.

“Smaller and Smaller” returns somewhat to more conventional song arrangements.  A repetitive piano hook backs a hypnotic Patton vocal.  The choruses are a bit on the insane side, and then the song deviates into a sample-laden section of challenging rhythms.  Yet somehow the song remains memorable and catchy.  This is followed by “Everything’s Ruined”, which also became a single.  I’m sure it was chosen because it is a solid mix of aggressive rapping with a memorable soul-influence chorus.  While it doesn’t sound like it would have been on The Real Thing, it’s about as close as Angel Dust gets.

“Malpractice” is one of the most messed-up tunes on the album, a mixture of disjointed sections, noisy guitars, smooth keyboards, feedback, all simmered to perfection.  By the time Patton’s screaming, “Applause, applause, applause, APPLAAAAAUUUUUUSSSSE!” I’m already clapping.  I think I read somewhere that this song was a Patton baby, which might explain it.  Certainly, the lullaby after the 2 minute mark is designed to lull you in before they hammer you with more guitars, samples and screams.  This closed Side One.

IMG_00000360Side Two was introduced by “Kindergarten”, Patton barking thoughts about the schoolyard.  There’s no guitar solo, but Mike Patton provides something shouted through a megaphone that amounts to a solo.  This is followed by Billy Gould throwing down a bass solo, and into the final verse.  The weak-willed will shudder before “Be Aggressive”, a graphic series of metaphors about swallowing.  This discourse is accompanied by a cheerleader chorus.  Jim Martin turns in a sloppy, Pagey guitar solo, the only one on the album.

After assaulting the listener with a song like that, “A Small Victory” is a welcome respite.  Its simple but bountiful melodies are perfect to soothe the ear canal.  This is also to prepare you for “Crack Hitler”, another bizarre sensory overload.  Funky bass meets distorted rapping, until it swerves into this weird, evil march.  Patton’s vocals run the gamut from light, to dark and monstrous. Even so, “Jizzlobber” is the most extreme song of them all.  It has those creepy Friday the 13th keyboards, heavy guitar riffs and pounding drums, and Patton’s most aggressive lead vocal yet.  I don’t know what the hell he’s singing without the lyric sheet, but it doesn’t sound like I wanna know either.  It’s just a pummeling assault, and unprepared listeners may find themselves overwhelmed and perhaps turned off from the album by this point.

The standard album ends with “Midnight Cowboy” supposedly because of some obsession that Billy Gould had with its storyline.  It’s a perfectly appropriate ending given the rollercoaster ride that preceded it.  It’s you, wandering off into the sunset, too wasted to really know if you’re headed in the right direction.

I stumbled upon an LP in 1993 that came with a bonus 12″.  This 12″ contained the exclusive “Scream Mix” of “MidLife Crisis”.  On the B-side are “Crack Hitler” and “Midnight Cowboy”, which didn’t fit on the first record.   The drum intro on “MidLife” is slightly extended, and the mix sounds possibly a little more bass heavy.

FNM AD_0005The Australian 2 CD version that I also have contains the Commodores’ “Easy” as its bonus track.  This is the same version that came out here domestically on the Songs to Make Love To EP.  It’s rendered remarkably straight, and its a performance like this that truly demonstrates Mike Patton’s vocal mastery.

The 2 CD edition comes (obviously) with a second CD!  This is a live EP entitled Free Concert in the Park, recorded in Munich.  It contains live renditions of three songs from disc 1, and one song from the first Faith No More LP, We Care A Lot.  Mike Patton dedicates “Easy” to “everyone with hemorrhoids this evening!”  And I am sure they appreciated his dedication, as they are an oft-ignored group at concerts, aren’t they?  The guitar solo in “Easy” remains one of my Jim Martin favourites.  Even heavier and more chaotic versions of “Be Aggressive” and “Kindergarten” follow, replete with surprises.  These live versions really hit the spot, as they are really cranked up.  The early obscurity “Mark Bowen” closes the disc.  This is the only version of the song that I have with Patton.  I like his take on it, which takes advantage of his vocal power.

It was astounding to me that three albums in a row, Faith No More had turned in inventive, new, exciting and potent music that was unlike the previous.  Angel Dust is definitely a peak of some kind.  80% of nu-metal bands owe their careers to this album.  I consider this to be “my favourite” FNM disc, although to be perfectly honest, I consider Introduce Yourself, The Real Thing, and King For A Day…Fool For A Lifetime to all be worth…

5/5 stars

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24 comments

  1. Really enjoyed this post. This is a brilliant album, I’d say it just edges into pole position ahead of King for a Day… It’s just a fantastic, demented album and a real grower. I kind of got into it a song at a time. For such a non-commercial band, they were pretty successful in the UK at this point. They always got a lot of TV spots and had a few minor hits as well as Easy, which went all the way to No. 1 hit over here. That was just surreal…

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    1. Easy didn’t make much impact here. The video didn’t get much play. As much as I do love King For A Day, which I have with oodles of bonus tracks, I think this last album with Jim was the peak.

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      1. I was never a big enough fan to go hunting around for bonus tracks. I bought a couple of compilations for B-Sides etc… but that’s about it.

        I can’t remember how long it was actually No. 1 but I think it was for a good few weeks anyway. I only vaguely remember the video playing on Top of the Pops! I always preferred the Everything’s Ruined video cause it was so endearingly crap.

        I’d rate Angel Dust top now… but it did used to chop and change with King for a Day. King for a Day has a lot of the best songs they did but Angel Dust is a more satisfying album overall.

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        1. I can’t remember the video for Everything’s Ruined at all. But I do have their DVD, and it’s probably on there…

          King For A Day is an incredible album, but so different from this one. I like them both, and I admire them for changing…AGAIN!

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        2. It’s a pretty shit video… but in a good way! I also remember them performing it live on The Word with Bill Gould wearing an amazing bee costume. Think I might have sent you a youtube link to that once?

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  2. Good post – I love this LP, but don’t own it anymore. I genuinely think every track is a classic here. I went off the band pretty quickly after they binned off Jim Martin.

    I’ve got the chorus of Be Aggressive ringing around my head now.

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    1. Should I ask why you don’t own it anymore? A phase? Short on money? Stolen?

      I enjoyed the one album they did with Trey Spruance, which was King For A Day. He wasn’t at all like Jim, but unique in his own way. It was the guys after that, that I really didn’t care for. They didn’t seem to have their own sound.

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      1. I know I just think they lost some of their spirit when he left – plus he just looked cool as hell.

        I just never really had the money at the time and then other stuff came up. It’s usually not a cheap one to buy on vinyl.

        Plus – I just love the cover.

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        1. Glad you mentioned the cover. It’s amazing.

          I’m not sure if they lost their spirit as you say, maybe it just morphed. Martin was definitely the metal influence.

          He did look cool as hell. I’m going to assume you already know he had a cameo in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.

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  3. Hey! I have this CD – it’s nice to (finally) have something you’re talking about in these pages! ;) I have played this album a few times now and it is fantastic! Remember I bought three of their albums a while ago, because you guys were talking about them? I got this one, Introduce Yourself and King For A Day and they’re all great. The bonus editions of this one look cool, too.

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  4. Very nice reading, this review. However, I must admit that I never got Faith No More at all. I really like The Real Thing, but I find it a bit uneven. This album defenitly has its moments and it is not a bad album, like Introduce Yourself. Still, I just don’t get this band at all.

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    1. I guess it wouldn’t help if I called you names, quoted some lyrics at you, and said I was right multiple times?

      I know this band is not for everybody. This is the weirder side that I sometimes enjoy.

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      1. Haha. Of course. I mean, you and me both are now huge fans of Tateryche after our mentor told us how wrong we are and that we are nothing but parrots. Checkmate. :)

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  5. I seen these guys open for Metallica/Gunners back in 92 in Minnieapolis . We got to the show and FNM were already playing and I remember looking for Patton as I could hear him but could not see him whereas I could see the other guys..sure enough through my alcohol induced haze sure enuff he was hunched down behind his monitor singing where he remained there for the whole set !!!!!
    I laughed….
    I was a follower bought of course Epic and the Fat Bastards VHS ,I think that’s what it was called….and than moved on…..but Patton that night was one performance I will never forget…

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    1. You Fat Bastards! I got that for Christmas. My mom didn’t want to buy something for me called You Fat Bastards.

      These guys opening for Metallica and GNR was just a strange idea for a bill. FNM were quite open about not liking Guns at all, although Jim was buddies with Metallica. The legend is that Axl wanted Nirvana to open who flat out refused.

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  6. LeBrain!

    It will always be great to hear another FNM fan sing their praises, and you, my friend, are no exception. I must admit, I have not before heard of the song “Mark Bowen”, and I am intrigued! You have inspired me to go and locate my discs, and once again immerse myself in organized mayhem!

    Btw, you ever run across a studio recording of “As the Worm Turns”? One of my favourites…

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    1. Cliff!!

      As the Worm Turns can be found in two places. The original version with Chuck Mosely singing can be found on the first CD, We Care a Lot. The slightly more desirable, and much more rare Mike Patton version is a lot harder to find. I have heard it but I don’t have it.

      It is on a MidLife Crisis single, and frustratingly it is one of the few if not the only Faith No More item that I am missing!

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  7. I love this album, but I have to skip “R.V” – I can’t stand it.
    Also, every time I hear “Be Aggressive” all I can think about is that Marilyn Manson ripped off the whole cheerleader chorus thing.

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