mr. bungle

#741: Homework

GETTING MORE TALE #741: Homework

Teachers and counsellors used to tell us it was OK to listen to music when you’re studying, but don’t play things you like so much that you find it distracting.  Nothing you love too much, nor anything you hate.

That was always a problem for me as a kid.  I loved music!  Then and now.

There were always a few albums that hadn’t clicked with me.  In 1992 I was studying for exams, and I chose Mr. Bungle’s debut to do it.  I was also working with the belief that listening to more complex music got your brain juices flowing even better.  I had my method for studying, and I really don’t think music had much impact.  I just remember choosing Mr. Bundgle for the reason that it was complex, and I didn’t get it.

When I was younger, in highschool, I remember listening to a lot of different things while studying.  I had a vinyl phase in early 1988.  I was 30 years ahead of the hipsters.  My sister and I had discovered B-sides in the singles rack at the local Zellers store.  Def Leppard’s “Ride Into the Sun” was playing in store, and my ears perked up.  I knew it was Leppard, but I never heard that song before!  Another single I purchased at that time was Triumph’s “Let The Light (Shine On Me)”.  Rik Emmett played it a few weeks earlier live and acoustic on the Power Hour.  The single got quite a few spins while I was doing my homework that winter.

For some reason, Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind was also on the turntable a lot while studying that year.  I may have purchased the record off Bob, because I am sure I got it from him.  There were a couple songs I played repeatedly.  One was “Still Life” and the other was “Sun and Steel”.  At that age, Bob and I thought we could really sing like Bruce Dickinson if we worked hard enough at it.  Those were two songs I was practising at the time!

Listening to music while studying seemed to work for me, but I will admit to one distraction.

Do you remember when Wayne’s World came out on home video?  The first releases came with a free pair of Wayne’s World drum sticks.  My sister bought the video and got the sticks.  However, I would frequently steal them and claim that I needed them to study.  It wasn’t untrue.  A lot of the time, I would pound out a beat on the bed while I was memorising names, dates and events.  However, other times I was just playing a solo.  Probably most of the time!

One could argue that drumming on the bed eventually led to my degree.

Hey, the teachers and counsellors also told us to take breaks from studying.  Sometimes mine were the length of a song…or several!

 

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REVIEW: Faith No More – Angel Dust (deluxe edition)

Previously on mikeladano.com….

Faith No More’s deluxe edition reissue program began in 2015.  Two years prior to that, we reviewed two editions of Angel Dust:  An Australian 2 CD set with a bonus EP called Free Concert in the Park, and the 2 LP version with a “MidLife Crisis” remix.  For this Angel Dust deluxe edition review, we will be incorporating old text from that review into this new one.  We also reviewed the 2 CD single for “Everything’s Ruined”.  Those tracks are also on this deluxe, and we will borrow text from that review as well.

scan_20170205FAITH NO MORE – Angel Dust (originally 1992, 2015 Slash deluxe edition)

Incredibly anticipated, and massively misunderstood:  Angel Dust separated the fans from the wannabes.  Reviews were mixed.  M.E.A.T Magazine’s Drew Masters awarded it 2/5 M’s and failed to grasp the genius that is the chaos within.  It certainly is an ugly duckling and will take more than a listen to reel in anyone.  Faith No More wearied of the “funk metal” tag and sought to distance themselves from it.  Importantly, Mike Patton dropped the nasal tone he utilized on The Real Thing.  Instead he unleashed his full voice in all its extremes.  With enviable range and power, Patton pushed his capabilities to their furthest limits.  Meanwhile, 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 his own parts.

Angel Dust commenced 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 it.  His voice knew no limits on Angel Dust.  A year prior, he released the debut album by Mr. Bungle.  There is little question that this must have demolished any vocal inhibitions he had with Faith No More.

The first single “MidLife Crisis” was about as close as it got 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, although 1991’s “The Perfect Crime” hinted at some of these elements.

Perhaps the most bizarre song (there are many more coming) is “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 tell me if I was gettin’…stupider?”  Once the novelty value wears off, it’s still a memorable tune due to the powerful choruses.  Patton nails another awesome lead vocal.  “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 the single “Everything’s Ruined”.  It must have been chosen because it is a solid mix of aggressive rapping with a memorable soul-influenced 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 delightfully 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!” we’re already clapping.  This song was a Patton baby, which explains it.  Certainly, the lullaby after the two minute mark is designed to lull you in before they hammer you with more guitars, samples and screams.  This closed side one.

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“Kindergarten” introduced side two with the sound of Patton barking thoughts about the ol’ schoolyard.  There’s no guitar solo, but Mike Patton muttering musically into a megaphone fills the void where the solo would go.  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, Jim Martin’s contribution “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.  You don’t know what the hell he’s singing without the lyric sheet, so just be enveloped.  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 ended 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.  Just keep walking.  Some editions of the album (including this deluxe) added the cover of The Commodores’ “Easy” as the final track.  There are a couple different mixes of “Easy” out there, and this is one is from The Very Best Definitive Ultimate Greatest Hits Collection.  The horns are missing, the drums have more echo added, and Mike Patton speaks at the beginning.  The song is rendered remarkably straight, and it’s a performance like this that truly demonstrates Mike Patton’s vocal mastery.  The original version (the “Cooler Version”) with horns opens disc two, the bonus tracks.  It can also be found domestically on the EP Songs To Make Love To.

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Also from that EP is the bizarre German-language speed-polka “Das Schutzenfest”.  This is a novelty track, shits n’ giggles, nothing more.  A good laugh but unimportant.  The Dead Kennedys’ “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” was also released on the Songs To Make Love To, but it was originally on a compilation called Virus 100.  Jim Martin wasn’t there and the song is performed as a quartet.  An underwhelming acoustic performance, it sounds a little like the Faith No More of the future as Patton adopts a lower singing style.

The real treasure on disc two and rarest of the all is “As the Worm Turns”, a Japanese bonus track for that long out of print edition of Angel Dust.  “As the Worm Turns” was one of the most stunning songs on Faith No More’s debut We Care A Lot, with Chuck Mosely on lead vocals.  A full-throated Mike Patton re-recorded it for this bonus track.  Sacrilege?  It is the superior version now.

A couple included remixes are only a sampling of what is actually available on singles. The “Scream Mix” of “MidLife Crisis” is the extended, bass-heavier mix from the 2 LP edition of the album.  The “Revolution 23 (Full Moon) Mix” of “A Small Victory” is only one of four versions from a remix EP they released.  Then it is on to the live material, and there are some treasures there.  The live EP Free Concert in the Park, (recorded in Munich) is expanded from four to six tracks.  Mike Patton dedicates “Easy” to “everyone with hemorrhoids this evening!”  The guitar solo spot in “Easy” remains a Jim Martin favourite.  Even heavier and more chaotic versions of “Be Aggressive” and “Kindergarten” follow, replete with surprises.  The early obscurity “Mark Bowen” is another Mosely song given the Patton treatment live, adding his own spin and abilities.  Two tracks are added to the proceedings:  “A Small Victory” and “We Care a Lot” from the same show.  These live versions really hit the spot, as they are really cranked up, and “We Care a Lot” contains a segue into “Jump Around” by House of Pain.  It’s a shame the live recording is so tinny.   These tracks were also released on CD singles for “Easy” in Europe.

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Up next are the four live songs taken from the double “Everything’s Ruined” single, all recorded in September 1992.   “MidLife Crisis” is growly and impressive, and “Land of Sunshine” is amped.  “Edge of the World” is the point when the audience is asked to sing along, with Patton yelling “Fuck me harder!”  The trailer-trash-talk of “R.V.” sounds a little laid back live; something’s missing.  It would be much better with the full visuals of a Mike Patton performance.

The deluxe edition concludes with an outtake finally restored to the album it was written with:  “The World is Yours”.  It was originally made available on Who Cares A Lot? The Greatest Hits in 1998.  Like Angel Dust itself, it is sample heavy.  Marching soldiers and trumpeting elephants join Roddy Bottom’s ominous keyboards in a symphony of WTF.  It is a fully formed recording, with effects-laden vocals fully mixed and finished.  It would have fit the more experimental and anti-commercial direction of the album perfectly, but not without making the album overlong.

Angel Dust, unlike the more successful The Real Thing, has a timeless sound.  It is a once in a lifetime album, a perfect meeting of disparate elements.  Jim Martin was ejected after this, and never again would his heavy metal guitars be grafted onto the sonic experiments of Faith No More.  A pity, but they have since moved on even more expansive sounds.  Angel Dust in some respects can be considered the real debut of Mike Patton in Faith No More.  A triumphant one it is.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Mike Patton – Adult Themes For Voice (1996)

ADULT THEMES FOR VOICE_0001

MIKE PATTON – Adult Themes For Voice (1996 Tzadik)

I’m a huge Faith No More fan; I think they’re easily one of the most brilliant bands of any genre to grace the stage. I collect their stuff, and occasionally Mike Patton’s solo projects as well. Numerous as they are, I tend to pick and choose today. Back in 1996, that wasn’t the case.

One night, out with T-Rev record shopping, we visited Encore Records in downtown Kitchener. On their shelves, for $24.99, was a Mike Patton solo album called Adult Themes for Voice. I asked the lady at the counter, “Is this any good?”  She responded cryptically, “Well, nobody’s ever returned one.”

I did buy it, not only because I’m a completist, but because the text on the obi strip made it sound so fucking cool:

The debut solo album from a performer/composer who has worked with Mr. Bungle, Kronos Quartet, Faith No More, Bob Ostertag and many others.  Experimental sounds never imagined from just a voice and microphone.  An absolute classic.

Shit, how could I possibly say no after reading that?  I’d have to be a dick not to buy the CD.

Then, we went to go visit Tom at his store, and he put the disc on.  In-store.

First came the wide open eyes, then the chuckles, then the “I can’t believe you spent $25 on this”.

Sorry folks, it’s just not for me.  I know there are people out there who can appreciate this. I’m not one of them. It’s true that Mike Patton can do just about anything with his voice, and here he does just about anything with his voice, except singing. Different screams and guttural sounds are spliced together into brief compositions.  Tape editing is just as important as the vocals, in terms of the final compositions.  At times his voice is percussive, at other times whimpering. At all times, assaulting the ear.  It rarely sounds human at all.  It’s interesting, with the recent release of the new Faith No More album Sol Invictus, how Mike Patton has integrated some of these techniques with their sound.

Being a collector, and being a long-time Faith No More fan, I did keep this album in my library. I found a good use for it: the shorter tracks make for awesome transitions on mix CDs!

1/5

But 5/5 stars if you can listen to something like this regularly; there’s no denying the creativity involved!

#328: Slowly Going Deaf? (RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale)

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#328: Slowly Going Deaf?

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I’ve been listening to music for as long as I can remember.  I’ve been listening to rock music — and I’ve been told to turn it down — since I was 11 years old.  That’s 30 years ago.  Remember all those times your parents said, “Turn it down, or you’ll be deaf by the time you’re 40!”  Let’s see if that’s true.

I’m not the concert-goer that a lot of you are.  I’ve always had a thing about crowds, but I’ve definitely seen my share of loud shows: Black Sabbath & Motorhead, Helix and Deep Purple are not the kind of bands that turn it down.  In 1972 Deep Purple were declared by Guinness to be the world’s loudest band!  But I don’t enjoy the sheer earthquake noise levels you can get at a concert like that, so I’ve been using earplugs much of the time for almost 20 years.  I started wearing them shortly after seeing Kiss in ’96.  I find this cuts a lot of the noise, and renders the concert to a volume more akin to a loud home stereo.

Where I’m most guilty of playing it too loud is the car.  Sometimes I don’t realize just how loud it is in there until I start the car in the morning, having left the stereo on at full blast.  I seem to turn it up, turn it up, turn it up…and get used to it.  Like a frog in cold water that you begin to slowly heat to boil, I become accommodated to the volume of the rock.  So that would concern me, where hearing loss is concerned.

How much hearing have I lost?  I completed a hearing test at work a short while ago, and have received the results.  Using a 2009 baseline as the comparison, it looks like it’s barely changed at all!

Here’s how the exam worked.  A mobile hearing test truck pulls into the parking lot and we take the hearing tests six people at a time.  Each one of us enters a soundproof booth, which look like we’re sitting in the escape pods of a spaceship, especially after we don our special noise-cancelling headphones.  Unfortunately it’s not a perfect setup.  I and several others could hear the beeping of forklifts and tow motors in the yard, through the booth and headphones.  This doesn’t help when you’re supposed to push a little button at the sound of a beep in your ears.  The test took about five minutes to complete and the results came back about two weeks later.  And here they are.  I don’t know what half this stuff means, but I’m told I have no major loss.  Alright!

TEST

REVIEW: Mr. Bungle – Mr. Bungle (1991)

MR. BUNGLE – Mr. Bungle (1991 Warner)

For the uninitiated, get ready. You’ve never heard anything in your life like Mr. Bungle. Featuring the powerful pipes of Mike Patton, Bungle was his pre-Faith No More band which he admirably kept going through the 90’s before finally calling it a day. This album, produced by John Zorn and completely different than anything Bungle did after, is a challenging first listen for the musically timid.  It is also acutely rewarding, and can only do good in expanding your musical vocabulary. If that ain’t your cup o’ tea, it also has lots of X-rated, adult only lyrics; words that will keep you laughing, disgusted or titillated all the way through. See: “Squeeze Me Macaroni” (sex with food) or “The Girls of Porn”.

Mr. Bungle squeezes multiple genres into single songs, often switching gears multiple times within a minute. Careening joyfully from breakneck-speed horn-laden funk, to death metal guitar with doo-wop vocals, to circus music and beyond, this is not for the meek. This is for the open minded. This is for the bored, those who can no longer handle the same damn songs on the radio all the time, the same keys, chords, time changes and instrumentation. And if you’re a Mike Patton fan already, but somehow missed this, prepare to have your mind blown.The production by John Zorn is perfect. How he managed to arrange all these instruments, samples, and voices together into coherent songs is nothing short of genius. The sound is gloriously crisp. This is Mr. Bungle’s magnum opus.

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Highlights:
  • “Travolta” – Changed to “Quote Unquote” on later pressings for obvious legal reasons.
  • “Squeeze Me Macaroni” – “Hostess Ding Dong wrapped an eggroll around my wong / While Dolly Madison proceded to ping my pong”
  • “The Girls Of Porn” – “The urge is too much to take / All I can think about is playing with myself / It’s time to masturbate / I got my Hustler and I don’t need nothing else”
  • “My Ass Is On Fire” – A memorable shocker ending with Patton chanting “Redundant, redundant, reeeedundant, reDUNdant…”
  • “Stubb (A Dub)” – A song that questions, among other things, if a pet dog believes they will grow up into a human being.

 

Regardless of the contrasting styles and lightning fast changes, after a fashion the album flows, and cannot really be broken down into singles, or put on a mix CD. It needs to be listened to in its entirety, in sequence. And be careful, when turning up the volume during the quiet moments.  You might want it louder to hear some bit of dialogue that’s mixed in too quietly.  That’s just when they blast you with more guitar and horns!

If you don’t like this on first listen, don’t fret. You’ll love it by the 21st. Guaranteed*.

5/5 stars

* I don’t actually honour any guarantees.

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

Part 82: Impact

Your gracious host

Your gracious host

The first time a record store person had any impact on me was actually well after high school.  Until then, I never spent much time interacting with them.  I always knew how to find what I wanted, and I never special-ordered anything because the stuff I wanted, they couldn’t get anyway.  I had to order my rare albums from magazines.

In 1990, Peter and I got heavily into Faith No More.  Peter got Introduce Yourself before I did, but I found We Care A Lot first.  I found it at Sam The Record Man, generally considered the best store in town at the time.  Angel Dust had just came out on CD, but I hadn’t got it yet.  We Care A Lot was a rarity; therefore a priority in my spending budget.

It was there, on cassette.  $14.99.  Not cheap.

Al King was behind the counter.  Al King was the undisputed music guru in town.  Undisputed.  I strived to be what he represented.  Heck he even had a feature spot on a weekly local TV program — The Metal Mike Show — which I watched many times.

“Do you have the new Faith No More yet?” Al asked me as he took the security tag off my purchase.

“No, not yet.  I saw this and I had to get it because I’ve never seen it before,” I answered.

“The new one is…pretty different.  Have you heard Mr. Bungle?” he inquired.

Al was engaging me.  He had just seen Bungle live.  He liked Bungle, but the new Faith No More was still growing on him.  He explained to me that you could really hear the Bungle influece on it.  The next time I came in, he told me he had just seen Faith No More.  He told me everything about the show.

Years later, things cycle around, and I found myself in Al’s shoes.  Kids were coming up to me and asking my opinion on things.  I tried my best to be honest and treat them with respect.  I had my bad days — we all do — but I certainly didn’t want to recommend music that I didn’t think was any good.

When I saw a young guy or girl come in buying Kiss, that was an instant obvious coversation starter.  Tall One and Short One, who I talked about several chapters ago, started getting into bands like Kiss and Oasis, so I tried to steer them into the albums I was into.

I made a lot of friends that way.  Shane Schedler, who I’ve talked about twice before was one guy who trusted my opinion implicity.  There was another guy, Italian Tony, who always wanted to know what I was into.  I sold him Slash Puppet that way, I knew he would be into that band.  And then there’s my buddy Statham.  Some found me on Facebook, some I just run into randomly.

Of course I had just as many failures.  Sometimes you expect someone to be into a new Maiden album just because they liked the old Maiden, for example.  Then they don’t trust you anymore.

I don’t think I appreciated my position back then.  I don’t think I saw myself as Al King.  I think I saw myself as still trying but not quite succeeding at being that guy.  It’s only now that I talk to people and get it.  Somebody will say to me, “You told me to buy this album, and I did, and it’s in my top ten of all time now.”  That’s a cool feeling.  I wish I appreciated it back then.

The truth is, it was a job just like any other.  You were a business and businesses were supposed to make money.  Stores have to be cleaned, books balance, shelves stocked.  Sometimes it felt like conversation was keeping you from your job.  And spend too much time with a single customer, and you got dirty looks from people with the authority to give you dirty looks.

I appreciate now though, that conversation was the job.  Conversations that I don’t even remember have turned out to have huge impacts on people’s musical lives.  Al King was a trusted musical guru to me.  It’s weird to think that I might be that to other people.   But if that truly is the case, I have to say thanks, because that’s all I ever really wanted anyway.

Well…that and a staff discount.

Yeah. Slash Puppet, baby.