One of the small pleasures of my early high school years was overhearing
cafeteria conversations like this:
"Dude, okay, so I was at Sam Goody this weekend, just hangin', y'know? And
Davey, the counter guy, he's telling me about this band..."
"Is Davey the one with the Op-Ivy jacket and the tattoos?"
"No, Davey's the guy with the nose ring who always plays the Misfits when
he's running the counter. Anyway, he was saying about how the Faith No
More guy is in this other band, right?"
"Dude, I fuckin' love Faith No More! [Poor, whiny approximation of Mike
Patton:] 'Yeeewww want it aaaalllll but yeewwww caaaan't haaaaave it!'
That song rocks."
"Yeah. Anyway, this other band-- they're called Mr. Bungle-- and Davey was
saying how they're way better than Faith No More, so I buy their tape from him."
"Well, what's it like? It is good?"
"Dude, it sucks! It completely fuckin' sucks! There's all this stupid noisy
shit on it. It doesn't rock at all."
And I would just smile to myself. Barring Metallica's Load, Faith
No More is probably the greatest joke ever played on wannabe metalheads;
The Real Thing duped them into buying albums that were way more
trangressive and insane than anything "heavy metal" had to offer at the
time. Mr. Bungle's eponymous major- label debut, advertised as a "Mike
Patton side project," was such an album, not to mention anything Faith
No More put out after The Real Thing. And to think that 10 years
ago, Mike Patton was regarded as a fairly handsome frontman who just happened
to be a psychotic misanthrope. Now we know better; he's actually a psychotic
misanthrope who just happens to be a fairly handsome frontman.
With Faith No More finally defunct after two albums that sounded increasingly
more and more like Mr. Bungle anyway, Mike Patton was free to really
freak the shit out of the ninth graders. Thus, California-- another
one of those albums that you can't believe a major label had anything to do
with. Admittedly, it's not as outwardly fucked up as previous Mr. Bungle efforts.
There's a disturbing number of orchestral ballads on California on which
Patton once again gets to show off his Rat- Pack- crooner skills. But the silky
smoothness of "Pink Cigarette" and "The Holy Filament," like the color- saturated
pictures of flowers in the liner notes, give off a surreal, disturbing feel; its
beauty is somehow also sinister and threatening.
The rest of California is textbook Mr. Bungle, if there is such a thing;
each song is crammed with a dozen twists and turns through a dozen- and- a- half
different genres. "None of Them Knew They Were Robots" is cartoony, evil Bond theme-
like jazz- swing; "The Air- Conditioned Nightmare" turns surf- rock into a Beach
Blanket Bad Acid Trip; "Ars Moriendi" is, uh... klezmer- polka- metal or something;
and "Vanity Fair" is pumped- up doo-wop with a creepy carnival- organ break. The more
I listen to California, the more I'm convinced that Mike Patton is really the
devil on holiday. Yes, the Dark Prince walks among us, but he's not reaping souls at
the moment; he's just toying with us, messing with our heads via the great Satanic
tradition of rock 'n' roll. Evil!