My reviews of Faith No More albums.
1985: We Care a Lot (???)
I have heard the title track many, many times but, at some point in the distant past, I think I resolved not to listen to their Chuck Mosley records.
1987: Introduce Yourself (???)
I have also never listened to the final Mosley record.
1989: The Real Thing (8/10)
Patton was still learning the full range of his voice (and still thinking he had to sing a certain way), and the Sabbath cover isn’t really anything to write home about (in that it’s straight up), but otherwise this is great.
“Surprise Your Dead” continues to be my favourite track.
Angel Dust (10/10)
When I was in first year university, a friend of mine lent this record to me. I listened to it, it made barely any impression on me and I gave it back to him. Maybe it was too much for me to take. Or maybe it was too metal for my tastes at the time. I have no idea what I was thinking.
A few years later I bought it for some reason. And I gave it my customary 3 listens. Imagine my surprise. (I must not have listened to it more than once the first time I heard it. Or I was just wrong.)
This is the definitive alternative metal album of the ’90s, taking all sorts of non-metal musical ideas and influences and combining them into a loud, aggressive metal record that veers off into non-metal genres way more often than many metal heads would prefer (I suspect). It’s important that, at their metal-est, they are extremely heavy and loud. It is, to quote Stephen Thomas Erlewine, “a bizarro masterpiece.” There is nothing else like it that I have ever heard. (Other FNM albums are less cohesive. Bungle is way weirder and way less metal, etc.)
It’s a record like this that ruins me for more conventional (i.e. non-alternative) metal, because its stylistic diversity sets up my ears for more. But when I listen to most other metal bands from the era I get one or two styles tops.
One of my favourite albums of all time and one of the best rock records of the ’90s.
1995: King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime (9/10)
Maybe this album is such a favourite of mine I can’t be objective about it. Maybe that’s why I don’t see what so many other people claim to see. But this is my favourite FNM album, even if I do acknowledge that it is not quite the absolute classic its predecessor is.
Yes, whatever magic the band managed to conjure on Angel Dust to make that album seem coherent, despite the ridiculous amount of styles, is missing here. And I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s the production, maybe it’s how the stylistic diversity seems to be put into separate tracks, rather than mixed into most of the songs. I don’t know.
But on measure, I think this is actually the stronger set of songs: the album contains a number of their loudest, fastest songs, some of Patton’s most out-there vocals and, most importantly for me, my favourite FNM song, “Just a Man”, where the band apparently does gospel.
It’s so weird to me to go back and look at contemporary reviews. I know Angel Dust was a hard act to follow, but the idea that this crazy, super diverse, awesome record is somehow bad is utterly mystifying to me.
1997: Album of the Year (7/10)
Faith No More’s last album before their breakup is as diverse as ever and that part is really appealing. And there are some strong songs here. But on the whole the quality of the songs (and, perhaps, the commitment to the styles they are trying out) seems less than on King for a Day.
This is still lots of fun but it just doesn’t stand up to their classics from earlier in the decade. It’s very enjoyable and might be the best place for a newbie to start (I think it’s more accessible), but it’s just not consistent enough.
A year later or so: This is the weakest Patton-fronted FNM album. It still has an appeal to me, but it’s their least good work. Maybe not the best album to get into the band through, actually. I am contemplating downgrading the rating.
2015: Sol Invictus (7/10)
When I was young I hated reunions, I felt like they were cash-grabs, things only sell-outs would do. I had a hard time thinking of musicians, particularly my musical idols, as people. I had an idea of artistic integrity and I thought that musicians should stick to it (or face my wrath, I guess). But another reason I hated reunions was because I was a fan of (mostly) “classic” rock. And the vast majority of those bands which reunited… well, those reunions went badly. And my favourite band at the time (The Beatles) had never reunited. And the band that took over that role from them (Zeppelin) only reunited for one off concerts every few years. Both “preserved” their legacies.
It’s a lot more culturally acceptable to reunite now – hell it’s practically mandatory. There have been a lot of reunions that have been judged to be “artistically” successful – in addition to being commercially successful which, you have to assume, was the reason for the reunion – in a way that most “classic” rock reunions were not. (I can think of a few successful classic rock reunions, but they were always after brief periods, not decades.) It must be hard for bands to have broken up to not jump on this bandwagon, provided they can stand the site of each other. Nostalgia is one of the great trucks of the internet.
But I don’t know how a reunion can be culturally relevant, especially if it’s been decades. If it’s been a few years, then sure, why not. I can think of more than a few bands that broke up or took a “hiatus” for a few years, only to come back with some of their best work. (Soft Machine, Traffic, King Crimson to name but a few.) But decades is different.
And cultural relevance is the objective isn’t it? At least, I think it is. It is for me, as a judging listener, a listener who cannot turn off his brain. In fact, for me, it’s been cultural transcendence, something that is extremely hard to determine when someone is sitting in the middle of the culture the music is supposedly transcending.
But the older I get, the more I wonder if cultural transcendence really is that important. Sure, it’s important for the historian in me, but is it important for the listener?
I don’t think it’s important for the members of the bands that reunite. Sure, some of them just want to make money. But many of them are probably trying to have fun, trying to recapture the joy they had earlier in their lives. That’s a very human desire.
And so, as I age, I am finding it harder and hard to spit on all reunions, especially now that bands that I like, and who I never got to see, are reuniting and putting out competent product. What’s wrong with something being good, even if it’s not transcendent, or even relevant?
And this record is good. It’s not great, but it’s good. It’s way better than I thought it would be. It reminds me way too much of Tomahawk’s “reunion” record – I can’t help but think of it, sorry – though it’s less interesting.
But the thing that it does well, which I guess the previous two albums didn’t do as well – though I love King for a Day – is that it combines their tendencies into the individual songs, like on Angel Dust, rather than as separate genre pieces. This band does not sound schizophrenic (relatively speaking!) compared to the band that released King for a Day and Album of the Year.
My worst fears are not confirmed. I actually want to keep listening to this.
Years later, I can say that I haven’t really listened to it any more.