Slash records

REVIEW: Faith No More – “From Out of Nowhere” (1990 UK 3 track 7″ single)

FAITH NO MORE – “From Out of Nowhere” (1990 Slash records 3 track 7″ single)

When I was beginning to seriously collect Faith No More in 1991 onwards, I had no idea what was out there.  I found the UK 7″ single for “From Out of Nowhere” at a record show in Guelph.  There are different versions of this single out there with “Cowboy Song” on the B-side, but that track can also be found on Live at the Brixton Academy.  The UK single on Slash/London has two live tracks you can’t find anywhere else, recorded by the BBC on March 2 1990.  Shortly after “Epic” was released as a single, but before it went mega.

The problem is, with 10 minutes of music squeezed onto the B-side, this single sounds horribly thin and is ridiculously quiet.  Tons of surface noise too.  The A-side, which spins at 45 rpm, is better.  Have a look at the unaltered waveform in Audacity for comparison.

Faith No More didn’t truly make it big until the end of the (first) vinyl age.  The album version of “From Out of Nowhere” was always an excellent song; one of their most “mainstream” if you can call it that.  The keyboard hook is the main angle, and Patton’s notable for using that clean nasal voice he discontinued not long after.  An excellent song, and a cornerstone of any nutritious Faith No More collection.

The B-side, the exclusive live recordings, rotates at 33 1/3 rpm.  Captured in Norwich, “Woodpecker From Mars” is Faith No More’s instrumental classic led by a keyboard violin voice by Roddy Bottum.  There is a different performance on a home video called You Fat Bastards (which is the complete Brixton set) but nothing else on audio.  “Epic” is disappointingly edited by the BBC.  They obscure the line where Mike Patton naughtily sings “get down on it and fuck it some more.”  The band sound fresh and almost green with enthusiasm for the song, playing it a bit more straight than they would later on.

On the plus side, this single comes packaged in a gatefold sleeve, a rarity for 7″ release.  Inside Mike Patton is givin’ ‘er live on stage.  Some kids probably taped this to the wall as-is.

In short, the music is great.  The vinyl is not.

2.5/5 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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