Did any band advance the genre of heavy rock quite so much and quite so quickly as Faith No More did between those first four albums?
Sure you could argue Sabbath laid the foundation stones for the genre in the late 60’s. There is definitely a case for Van Halen (Rest in Power Eddie) defining the 80’s before the decade even got started. You’d not be alone in claiming the Big 4 dug a whole new path by taking all that went before and adding some Venom. Who though really kick started the 90’s? Before Nirvana and Soundgarden dragged the muddy banks for left over Iommi riffs and hard core screeching, there was the funk metal boom of Introduce Yourself into The Real Thing. Early contemporaries of yesterdays Cover Stars Red Hot Chili Peppers and bands forgotten on the battlefields of the punk wars like Mind Funk and Primus, FNM hold a unique and special place in the minds heart of any mosher who came of age between Master Of Puppets and Nevermind.
So the debut and sophomore albums has a different singer and a rougher sound. Chuck was instrumental in getting Faith No More up and going. The secret weapon came in the long haired replacement for album number three though. So far so Iron Maiden right? Not quite.
The unique band of freaks that featured Mike (Mr. Bungle) Patton, Big Sick Jim Martin, Roddy Bottum (one of the first openly gay heavy metal stars to just let it be out there without it somehow being a headline) Mike (drummer of choice for Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath and Korn in later years) Bordin and bass funk machine Bill Gould made a big shift to modern metal music in 1989 with The Real Thing. It had three huge hit singles in Epic, From Out Of Nowhere and Falling To Pieces. It had metal anthem Surprise! You’re Dead! (written by Martin for his old band that also featured one Cliff Burton on bass duties) and it had a Black Sabbath cover version played straight but totally rejuvenating the godfathers of the genre when they were at their lowest ebb. The Real Thing is an exciting rock thrown into the lake even still to this day. It’s follow up record though, that’s a perverse and twisted masterpiece.
Angel Dust is the creative high point of grand guignol alternative music. Along side Ministry’s Psalms and Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual this is the Freak Show side of 90’s culture in all it’s sardonic, funny, horrific and horrified glory.
Utterly listenable and shockingly discordant all at once. Noise terror experiments like Malpractice, Jizzlobber and Crack Hitler off set the filth encrusted & Tom Waits indebted RV and the serious/inglorious/ironic covers of The Commodores I’m Easy and the instrumental movie score theme for Midnight Cowboy. That might sound like the guts of the album. That’s the freak show surrounding such timeless genre bending anthems as Smaller And Smaller, Land Of Sunshine, Midlife Crisis, Be Aggressive and the magnificent Everything’s Ruined.
On a broken piano intro the bass slides over cymbal hisses and torrential power chords.
“So happy, things worked out better than we had planned”
A Citizen Kane like tale of greed, loss and grief unfolds in the lyrics. The story of a child as a shiny penny, growing from baby to boy to man. Very soon becoming a million. Patton does ‘demon on the shoulder’ interjections as he tells the tale of a capitalist dream.
“People loved him so and helped him to grow, Everyone knew the thing that was best, of course he must invest, a penny wont do, no, a penny wont do”
We know how this sort of drama works though right? Howard Hughes, Mr Burns, Louis XVI, Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born. What is a rise without a fall? As Bottum’s wonky keys remain the only friendly part of the song the lyrics take a darker turn.
“He mad us proud, he made us rich, how were we to know, he’s counterfeit? Now everything’s ruined”
Then it hits like a water balloon bursting on your ears, that solo. Metal, funk, pop, theater, all at once. Faith No More Man. What. A. Band.
It really was a different time. The themes though. They endure.