Matt Wallace

REVIEW: Faith No More – We Care a Lot (Deluxe Band Edition)

FAITH NO MORE – We Care a Lot (Originally 1985, 2016 Deluxe Band Edition)

In 1985, roughly when a young band called Mr. Bungle was forming elsewhere in California, the legendary Faith No More released their debut album.  Original pressings and reissues have the band name written as “Faith. No More.”  It was a version of their name that they’d soon drop.  The lineup of Chuck Mosely, Jim Martin, Roddy Bottum, Billy Gould and Mike Bordin put together a low-budget debut that garnered them enough attention for their next album to be distruibuted by Warner.  A viable career as a rock band followed.  As a result of this fruitful career, in 2016 We Care a Lot was officially reissued with a load of bonus tracks and full participation from producer Matt Wallace.  As the liner notes say, “We’re putting this out because we can.”

This reissue includes four demos, and interestingly they reveal that there was an instrumental “Intro” for this album that was apparently dropped.  This sci-fi, keyboard-led intro would have been an interesting way to kick off the album with some atmosphere and foreboding.  (For a custom listening experience, try playing the album with the instrumental first.)  The disc instead commences directly with “We Care A Lot”, the first version mind you, not the hit single you know.  The sound is a tad more primitive and the lyrics were different in several places.  The “NASA Shuttle” hadn’t fallen into the sea yet in 1985, so it is Los Angeles that Chuck cares a lot about it.  Instead of the Transformers, he gives a shout-out to Mr. T.

“Jungle” is a disorienteing series of head-punches with reverse-echo.  A jagged Jim Martin riff and staggering Mike Bordin drum pattern makes it a relentless slam.  Chuck Mosely sounds frantic, unstable and urgent.  The same relentless approach pounds your head on “Mark Bowen”, slower but no less imposing.  Though Chuck is all over the map with his scattershot vocals, the band is solidly ominous behind him.

An absolutely beautiful acoustic interlude called “Jim” reveals a previously unknown part of Martin’s talents.  Though less articulate, this kind of composition sounds like the ones Randy Rhodes would include on an Ozzy record.  And just like with Ozzy, next it’s something heavy to slam.  That something is “Why Do You Bother”, the original side one closer.  Tense and rhythmic, it’s a tornado of fun.

Side two boasts several standout tracks.  Certainly “As the Worm Turns” has earned its place in Faith No More history, since Mike Patton re-recorded it in the studio and performed it live numerous times.  Its cascading keyboard melody contrasts with the heavy riff.  This version is rougher, but no less perfect.  “Greed”, which opens the side, is also notable.  It reads like a rejection letter from record labels.  “They say that when I’m supposed to be singin’, all I’m really doin’ is yelling!”  Though one doesn’t think Chuck would have been sensitive to such criticism, he does seem stung that “they say that I can’t sing, that I don’t say a thing, that I make everything up.”  But he defiantly strikes back with a heartfelt melody delivered at maximum intensity.

For thunder, check out “Pills for Breakfast”, another instrumental anchored by a Jim Martin riff that could move mountains.  Martin’s guitar gives “Arabian Disco” a solid spine, and Mosely shoves in as much melody as he’s got to give.  Only here at the tail end of the album does the quality of the songs dip at all.  “New Beginnings” is too laid back compared to the rest of the disc, bordering on dull.

Faith No More have been blessed with a number of (arguably) 5/5 star albums in a row:  Introduce Yourself (1987), The Real Thing (1989), Angel Dust (1991) and King For a Day (1995).  We Care A Lot isn’t quite at that lofty point yet, but it wouldn’t take long.  Chuck Mosely’s unique approach of “yelling when he’s supposed to be singing” isn’t for everything and wasn’t fully harnessed in the studio until the next album.  But all the ingredients are here, on the first record, ready to explode in every direction.  Fortunately for you, this CD edition goes on for another nine bonus tracks!

Some 2016 remixes by Matt Wallace add more punch to the originals:  “We Care A Lot”, “Pills For Breakfast”, and “As The Worm Turns” are given the remix treatment.  Less echo; louder and punchier guitars.  No structural changes.  Three of the best tracks were selected, and sound great if played on a shuffle with later Faith No More classics.  The next batch of bonus tracks are four demos (including the aforementioned “Intro”).  Dig into early version of “Greed”, “Mark Bowen” and “Arabian Disco”.  The arrangements are all more or less intact, and the recording is so good that they could have been released long before.

Finally there are two live tracks from San Francisco in 1986.  “Jungle” (with a segue into “Shout” by Tears For Fears) and “New Beginnings” are bootleg quality, but look what they have done in terms of track selection.  There are no songs repeated among the bonus tracks.  Between the demos, remixes and live versions, eight of the album’s ten are present in alternate versions.  That’s value for the consumer.

Snag We Care A Lot if you see one in the wild, but absolutely aim for the 2016 Deluxe Band Edition.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Faith No More – Introduce Yourself (1987)

FAITH NO MORE – Introduce Yourself (1987 Slash)

Faith No More’s second LP (and major label debut) is their only so far not to have received a deluxe or expanded edition.  The bizarre thing about that is that Introduce Yourself is one of their best, totally deserving the honour.  Faith No More have several 5/5 star albums in their catalogue, and Introduce Yourself is [spoiler] one of them [end spoiler].

Chuck Mosley was the singer, a bizarre frontman with a totally unique style and a penchant for putting stuff in his dreadlocks.  One of his lyrics says it best.  On the first Faith No More album, he wrote “They say that when I’m supposed to be singing, all I’m really doing is yelling, oh well…”  Mosley’s stuffy-nose stylings are an acquired taste, especially if you have only heard Mike Patton.  In Faith No More, it worked and set up what Mike Patton was able to do later on.  Mosley is melodic in a bizarre, off key way.

“Faster Disco” isn’t that at all.  It’s mid-tempo Faith No More, in the style they created and mastered.  There is a chunky guitar riff (or two).  There is an underscore of keyboards holding down the melodic foundation.  There is a solid beat, and a strangely catchy multi-tracked vocal.

Faith No More are also known for funky Billy Gould bass beats, and that’s “Anne’s Song”.  Chuck has a conversational vocal, sorta-rapped, sorta-spoken.  It too is strangely memorable, and it was one of two singles.

The title track “Introduce Yourself” is fast and fun, and also lives up to its name!  Chuck introduces the band in the lyrics, but the song is so incredibly fast that it’s over in 1:30.  Too bad, because it’s awesome.  Another style Faith No More are known for is the “dark and ominous” song.  “Chinese Arithmetic” is one of those, a weighty track with keyboards providing glimmers of light.  One of the strangest tracks is the staggering “Death March”, which is also hilarious.  “How much for a transfer, man?  95 cents?  Fuck you, I’ll skate to the beach!  And look better getting there!”

The most famed track is “We Care a Lot”, the most well known single from this album and also the title track from the prior album.  The lyrics were updated and the music re-recorded.  This version is the best one, what with that line about “We care a lot / about Transformers, cuz there’s more than meets the eye!”

“R n’ R” is caffeinated Faith No More, blowing down the doors with hard rapping and riffing.  Then is “The Crab Song”, which Mike Patton once described as a “sad song”.  It has that, and it also has the split personality thing going on.  Halfway in, it abruptly changes into a riffy, bass-slappy stomp.  At almost six minutes long, it’s one of the earliest examples of Faith No More creating mini-epics by assembling seemingly mismatched components.

Introduce Yourself concludes with a pair of fast, impacting song.  “Blood” is carried by a lofty keyboard part, and hammered forth by a relentless Chuck Mosley.  Then “Spirit” is the finishing touch, a heavy-as-fuck Jim Martin guitar riff.   In the back, drummer Mike Bordin is physically assaulting his kit.  Mosley puts his throat to full intensity as the band rips all the way to the end.

Introduce Yourself is brilliant, and it’s easy to overlook it because Mike Patton has since become a dominant presence.  Introduce Yourself is every bit as challenging, intense, unorthodox, melodic and heavy as any of their later albums.  Do not dismiss it; instead make it a priority.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Faith No More – The Real Thing (deluxe edition)

scan_20170128FAITH NO MORE – The Real Thing (originally 1989, 2015 Slash records deluxe edition)

Fans of discerning taste cried tears of joy when Faith No More, one of the most underappreciated bands of recent times, finally received the deluxe edition treatment.  Faith No More may have paved the way for more popular acts like as Korn, System of a Down and Incubus, but they seemed forgotten by new young rock fans.  These deluxe editions have put their classic albums back on the racks.

Though The Real Thing is the album that launched them onto MTV and contains their best known hit (“Epic”), it’s the only Faith No More album that sounds like this.  Mike Patton affected a nasal tone to his singing that he dropped by the next album.  (Producer Mike Wallace suggests that Patton sang this way on The Real Thing partially to separate Faith No More from Mr. Bungle, who he still had massive loyalties to.)  It’s the most mainstream and most “metal” of their albums, with much of their other material being more abstract, artsy and bizarre.  Though they loathed the term, you can hear how Faith No More were considered “funk metal” from 1989-92.

Opener “From Out of Nowhere” is a living embodiment of its own title.  A keyboard and guitar riff, simple and catchy, pummel the speakers as Mike Patton makes his debut.  Original singer Chuck Mosely was gone and Patton emerged, fresh from the aforementioned Mr. Bungle.  Nobody had ever heard anything like Mike Patton before.  His range and power were enviable, but he clearly liked taking the piss too.  “From Out of Nowhere” was the first single and a brilliant choice for trying to sway the uninitiated.

Of course “Epic” was the big one.  Its timely combination of rap and metal was on the cutting edge.  The lyrics were nonsense* and Patton’s goofy personality shone through.  It was close to the edge of novelty.  Jim Martin’s power chords and harmony leads kept things from falling off.  On the rhythm, Mike “Puffy” Bordin is one hard-hitting drummer, keeping things anchored solidly.  You can really hear the funk on “Falling to Pieces”.  It’s there in Billy Gould’s bass and Patton’s soulful (nasal) voice.  This too was a single, following the smash hit of “Epic”.

Faith No More also crossed over to the thrash crowd with “Surprise! You’re Dead!”.  An aggressive banger like this was custom made for Anthrax fans.  Most importantly, Mike Patton got to show off some of what he is capable of.  The guttural howls, painful shrieks, and insane laughs burrow into your ears.  They are hooks themselves, though certainly not in the traditional sense!  This is a contrast to “Zombie Eaters”, with quiet acoustic sections and intricate picking by Martin.  “Zombie Eaters” does not stay that way, and soon transitions into a rumbling, earthquake riff.  Roddy Bottum’s keyboards add tension, and Mike Patton piles anguish on top of that.  An even more powerful song follows:  “The Real Thing”, 8:01 of light/shade and dramatic performances.

Pop and funk collide on “Underwater Love”, the most accessible song on the album.  It evolved live into something very different, as you will hear on disc two.  Patton did it with more of his own style once they got it out on stage.  “The Morning After” has a haunting vibe, moving into a heavier chorus.  Jim Martin’s guitars are clearly in the metal domain, like the odd man out, but still essential.

The album begins to drift to a close with “Woodpecker From Mars”, the only instrumental.  Roddy has his keyboard set to the “violin” tone, and is the lead melodic focus of this punishing track.  Everything else is a blur of guitars, drums and bass.  Their unique cover of “War Pigs” is next, though pretty straight-laced compared to the live version on disc 2.  Finally “Edge of the World” closes the album with a slow piano waltz completely unlike anything else on the album.

The second disc has a wealth of treasure, though not all the B-sides and rarities out there.  “Sweet Emotion” was released a few years back on The Very Best Definitive Ultimate Greatest Hits Collection, but its original source is a flexi-disc from Kerrang! magazine.  It is not an Aerosmith cover; rather it is an early version of “The Perfect Crime” from the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack.  Two more bonus tracks, “Cowboy Song” and “The Grade” (an instrumental) are also available on the album Live at the Brixton Academy.  Both good songs; “The Grade” really shows off some very sweet Jim Martin steel guitar.  “Cowboy Song” (nothing to do with Thin Lizzy) is good enough that it could have been a single: catchy, melodic and punchy.

Remixes of “Epic” and “Falling to Pieces” are taken from an old two-song CD single, although this remix of “Falling to Pieces” is longer by 11 seconds compared to the single.  They add a bit more echo and other effects as well as some edits.  An extended remix of “From Out of Nowhere” lengthens the song by a minute, by adding more instrumental sections.  Five live songs round out the B-sides and rarities, including two that were chopped from the CD release of Brixton Academy.  (Speaking of which, that’s a deluxe edition we’d like to see.)  “As the Worm Turns” is one of these Brixton tracks, an old essential Chuck Mosely song given the Patton treatment.  Patton’s gurgling during “War Pigs” is a career highlight!   Live BBC recordings of “Epic” and “Woodpecker From Mars” are missing from this deluxe edition, but available on an old 7″ single (“From Out of Nowhere”).

The Real Thing is an essential album.  Its deluxe edition was long overdue, and fortunately most of Faith No More’s catalogue has been similarly beefed up.  It is not perfect, but few deluxes are.  There will always be more to collect.  This deluxe however will scratch quite a few tracks off your lists.

4.5/5 stars

*I recall writing “What is it?  It’s it.” on my English final exam for no particular reason.

REVIEW: Sons of Freedom – Sons of Freedom (1988)


 

SONS OF FREEDOM – Sons of Freedom (1988 Slash records)

 

“Never retract, never retreat, never apologise…get the thing done and let them howl.”Nellie McClung 1873-1951

 

Once considered the saviours of Canadian rock, Vancouver’s Sons of Freedom powered their way onto the national scene in 1988 with “The Criminal”, one of the straight-up rockingest tracks to ever emerge from the tundra.  They maintained momentum long enough to beat Nirvana in the college radio charts in 1991 (#1 debut vs a #2 for Nirvana), but Sons of Freedom didn’t fit into a nice “grunge” pigeonhole.  They were too different, too weird, too Canadian.  By 1995 and a mere three albums, they called it a day, but were not forgotten.

What a track “The Criminal” was, certainly sounding very little like 1988.  The bleak music video didn’t look much like the competition.  Crammed into a tiny rehearsal space, the three clean-shaven, short-haired musicians (all named Don for real!) and one long-hair with a British accent (named Jim Newton at first, but he changed his name on every single album!) didn’t look like other bands on the rock scene.  They hooked up with Slash Records, and Faith No More’s producer Matt Wallace, and made a starkly heavy record.  They may have appealed to the same audience as The Cult, a superficial comparison, but Ian Astbury was considered an “honorary Canadian” by many rock fans (he lived in the Great White North for six years in the 1970’s and Cult bassist Jamie Stewart later made his home on the Toronto scene).  But in 1988, the Cult had never recorded anything as relentless as “The Criminal”.

We got love, we got love, we got justice from above.

If any band in Canadian rock history defined the phrase “ahead of their time”, it had to be Sons of Freedom.  “The Criminal”, with its emphasis on that singular groove and strangely hypnotic vocals, could have lead the charge in the 1990’s.  There are solos, but they are clang-and-bang, not shred.  They even had a quote by a Canadian female rights activist on the cover!  Why didn’t they catch?  Maybe it was the fact that they didn’t stand still and repeat themselves.  Maybe it was the singer changing his name to James Jerome Kingston.  Whatever it was, Sons of Freedom didn’t make the impact they rightfully could have.  They even had a song called “Fuck the System”!

The three Dons (Binns, Short and Harrison) lay down massive and strange bass-heavy grooves all over this debut album.  They sound more like industrial machinery than musicians on some tracks.   “Super Cool Wagon” has the concrete foundation needed to flatten all comers, but also boasted a weird “Ah-ooh-ah-ooh-ah-ay” vocal with no words!  That’s the album opener — nearly four solid minutes of heavy rock with nothing but ah’s and ooh’s for lyrics!  Amazing tracks like “Mona Lisa”, “This is Tao” and “Shoot Shoot” are based on the same template.  Smashing monolithic grooves, expertly recorded by Wallace, are topped by the unusual and melodic vocals of James Newton.  The vocals allow you to grasp onto the song, while the undercurrent of the groove carries you away.  I blame Don Binns for the sheer inertia of the grooves, since his bass work sounds to be the driving force of them.

Other tracks explore different directions.  “Dead Dog on the Highway” slows it down but adds a strangely funky Don Harrison guitar lick on top.  “The Holy Rollers” drones on slower than slow, the Smiths on Quaaludes, but again you are dragged along with it.  Pay attention to what is going on beneath the groove, as dischord rules with a balanced fist.  “Judy Come Home” is almost radio-friendly, but “Is It Love” has a stuttery groove that could have been hit material in the right climate.  “Fuck the System” is hard-hitting good-time punk and one of the only songs to have a rocky riff.  The final track “Alice Henderson” is the Sons’ version of an epic as it chugs without rest, leaving nothing but wreckage and waste behind.

Ultimately, I suppose nothing bonds bandmates like a good first name.  The three Dons emerged a few years after Sons of Freedom split, backing Lee Aaron (then simply “Karen”) in a new band called 2preciious and a later industrial project called Jakalope!

3.5/5 stars

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