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Cover Art Mr. Bungle
[Warner Bros.]
Rating: 7.3

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!

-Nick Mirov



10.0: Indispensable, classic
9.5-9.9: Spectacular
9.0-9.4: Amazing
8.5-8.9: Exceptional; will likely rank among writer's top ten albums of the year
8.0-8.4: Very good
7.5-7.9: Above average; enjoyable
7.0-7.4: Not brilliant, but nice enough
6.0-6.9: Has its moments, but isn't strong
5.0-5.9: Mediocre; not good, but not awful
4.0-4.9: Just below average; bad outweighs good by just a little bit
3.0-3.9: Definitely below average, but a few redeeming qualities
2.0-2.9: Heard worse, but still pretty bad
1.0-1.9: Awful; not a single pleasant track
0.0-0.9: Breaks new ground for terrible

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