The Real Thing

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: Faith No More – “Everything’s Ruined” (double single)

FAITH NO MORE – “Everything’s Ruined” (1992 Slash, 2 discs sold separately)

A short while ago I reviewed the landmark Faith No More album, Angel Dust.  This is one of four singles (that I know of, anyway) lifted from that album.  It’s a great tune, and if I may quote my own review, I said “I’m sure it was chosen [as a single] 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.”  The chorus is definitely a winner, and this is a Faith No More song more likely to appeal to non-fans.

There are live B-sides a’plenty, all recorded in September 1992.  Disc 1 (sold separately but containing room for disc 2) has “Edge of the World”, from The Real Thing, and the bizarre “R.V.”, from Angel Dust.  “Edge of the World” is where Faith No More have the audience sing along, to Patton yelling “Fuck me harder!”  The trailer-trash-talk of “R.V.”  sounds a little too laid back live, something’s missing.  I’m sure it would be much better with the full visuals of a Mike Patton performance.

Disc 2 has a couple more newbies:  “MidLife Crisis” and “Land of Sunshine” live.  These two performances stand out.  Patton’s even more unhinged on the live versions.  “MidLife Crisis” in particular is an exceptional version.  Regardless, officially released live Faith No More is rare indeed.  Collectors would be advised to put these two singles fairly high on their priority lists.

4/5 stars

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