Mike Patton, vocalist of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle (among many others), is this close to the legendary level of Freddie Mercury. I once purchased a disc comprised solely of Patton’s guttural mouth noises. The song I referenced in the punch panel (which I’m screaming at a version of ‘Chris-Chan’, but no one noticed), “The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies”, is one of the best metal songs I’ve ever heard. Check out Patton’s “I never felt this much alive” on the outro, he’s a demon:
One of my favorite Mike Patton albums outside of Mr. Bungle is Irony Is A Dead Scene, with Dillinger Escape Plan. In just over eleven minutes, these guys forge a metal soundscape for the motherfucking ages. Sometimes Patton smacks himself in the throat while shrieking, producing an alien, staccato effect. Listen to the timing and timber on the following lyrics in “When Good Dogs Do Bad Things”, at 1:28.
Listen through the walls
The sound of quick footsteps sneaking down the hall
The pages turning
The leaky roof
The toilet flushing
Numbers on the license plate
I’m nothing more than
The best you’ll never have
A speck on your bedroom wall
A blood red waterfall
THE BEST YOU WILL EVER HAVE
No one but Mike Patton can make the sinister sound so beautiful.
The thing is, if you’ve been a Mr. Bungle fan as long as I have, you knew that already.
Mr. Bungle was a band comprised of Patton and his talented buddies from high school in Eureka, California. They released three major-label albums, in 1991, 1995 and 1999, thanks to the chart success of Faith No More. All three are staggering in their brilliance, and no two are alike. The first, produced by John Zorn in 1991, was a self-titled debut that skewed heavily toward funk-metal fusion. The art was from a fantastic issue of Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children; “A Cotton Candy Autopsy”, by Dan Sweetman (highly recommended if you can find it). It’s a great mix with songs like “Carousel”:
Bungle’s second album is my personal favorite, Disco Volante (1995). A total departure from the previous sound, this entry was produced by Mr. Bungle themselves, and has a murky, dub-like tone that complements the “underwater” theme. There are two tracks you can blow speakers with; the thumping “Desert Search For Techno Allah”, and “The Bends”, a haunting operetta about the pain of decompression. Behold how much emotion Patton conveys simply breathing:
Mr. Bungle’s final salvo came in 1999, with California, a post-modern suite with the seaside flavor of Pet Sounds, or Smile. Because it was delayed so as not to coincide with the release of a Red Hot Chili Peppers album with a vaguely similar title, it is a large reason for my hatred of that group. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn posted on his website,
“Flea, in all seriousness, really isn’t that good. I mean, c’mon. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were vaguely interesting in the late 80s, but Christ they fucking suck, they suck.”
That about sums it up for me. I love Flea in the Back To The Future movies however. One can’t help but wonder, though… what if Mike Patton had played that role instead? We know he could make chicken noises!
Excepting a couple of raucous tracks, California is relatively mellow. It makes for a smooth capper to an unintentional trilogy. “Retrovertigo” in particular is a wistful, prescient standout, with a cleaner, glossier production that highlights the vocal harmonies.
The real demonstration of Patton’s vocal prowess comes on “Pink Cigarette”, a morbid R&B ballad, sung from the point of view of a spurned masochist who turns to suicide. Have a listen to how much substance is added by overdubbing Patton’s tenor falsetto with lots of reverb. The sharp western tone of the guitar fills in the rest of the gruesome spectacle. The song is a marvel that leaves you breathless.
It’s always good to go out on a high note, and that’s what Mr. Bungle did. Literally, a high note; at the close of “Goodbye Sober Day”, the final track, Patton does a spot-on “monkey chant”, which the Maori practice to scare the shit out of their enemies. I listen to California less frequently, even though I feel it’s Mr. Bungle’s best album. The emotions and ideas are so potent and acute, and coupled with the hard feelings inherent to a band’s end, it’s quite a lot to take. You owe it to yourself to experience all three Bungle albums, in any case, if you like American independent rock/metal.
Recently Faith No More reformed, but I haven’t had the time to absorb their new stuff properly yet. I would wager it’s very good. Faith No More is a very good band. Seriously, I can’t even criticize the “rap-metal” stuff because they were the first. I must have listened to The Real Thing a million times as an art school freshman. It made perfect sense in 1990. I put “Falling To Pieces” on a mixtape for some dame that same year. I would argue that “Underwater Love” is the best song of the album. But, y’know, we beat it all to death and got sick of it. C’est la vie.