No, The Real Thing was not Faith No More’s first album. This underrated album, the band's second, was actually the one that started to get the band noticed, primarily because of the underground single “We Care A Lot” (actually a reprise from their underwhelming first album, also called We Care A Lot), an anthemic shout along that showcased their unique mix of hard metallic guitar, a fiercely funky rhythm section, and moody keyboards. Indeed, Faith No More is perhaps the only band that has successfully integrated these disparate elements, along with a singer/rapper, into a successful whole without it seeming at all forced. This album is a surprisingly strong early effort and is definitely worth seeking out for any fan that came aboard later, such as yours truly. Chuck Mosley is the vocalist here, and though he’s no Mike Patton his nasally shouts/raps fit well with the material, though it should be noted that many fans find him to be an acquired taste (to put it mildly). The fact that he was black also brought the band some needed pub; let’s face it, black people in heavy metal being a rarity. Anyway, “Annie’s Song” and “Chinese Arithmetic” are also really catchy and impressive, while the menacingly grinding “Death March,” the brief but hard-hitting title track, and the surging "Blood" also hit the right pleasure points. In fact, the whole album rocks, and though the band is sometimes too stingy with their hooks and the album is short on truly memorable songs (though most of them sound good while they're playing), Introduce Yourself is far more than merely an appetizer for future band breakthroughs.
The Real Thing (Slash/Reprise ‘89) Rating: A
“From Out Of Nowhere” came this awesome “Epic,” proving that Faith No More was “The Real Thing” (sorry, couldn’t resist). Indeed, The Real Thing was a landmark release for Faith No More, as this major label debut was their first album with new shouter/rapper/crooner Mike Patton, who gave the band a truly distinctive new frontman, strengthening an already fascinating musical foundation. This album was their commercial breakthrough, primarily due to the mammoth MTV hit “Epic,” which marries a killer beat with a great rap from Patton. The song also features those cool thrashy "what is it" sections, not to mention a pretty piano outro and that video with the goldfish flailing around. Really, one could make a case that rap rock/nu-metal as a viable commercial proposition began right here, though that shouldn't be held against Faith No More, whose music was far more varied (and who were frankly far more talented) than any of those bands. Throughout The Real Thing, the band’s keyboard-drenched, metallic funk rock is remarkably melodic and powerful, yielding infectious singles such as “From Out Of Nowhere” and “Falling To Pieces.” Though the short “Surprise! You’re Dead!” is straight-up thrash metal, the band stretches out on “Zombie Eaters,” the title track, and “Woodpecker From Mars” (a brilliantly strange yet eerily evocative instrumental), yet these epic length songs are never boring or inaccessible despite being ambitious and experimental. In fact, they’re complete triumphs that show off Faith No More’s mastery at matching atmospheric shadings with heavy metal's might. Other highlights are the eminently tuneful “Underwater Love” and a faithful cover of Black Sabbath's classic “War Pigs,” done well before Sabbath was back in vogue again (then again, Faith No More have always been a band who were a little too ahead of their time for their own good). Elsewhere, the stellar rhythm section of bassist Billy Gould and drummer Mike “Puff” Bordin, who really shine throughout the album, propel the otherwise unexceptional (if still good) "The Morning After" with their staccato rhythms, while "Edge Of The World" is a somewhat anti-climactic ending (after "War Pigs"), though it's still a solidly soulful pop song that again demonstrates the band's willingness to stretch the boundaries of what a metal band was supposed to be. Fortunately, this is still a highly accessible album (Matt Wallace’s production is commercial yet punchy), the main weakness of which is (despite a generally strong performance) Patton's at times whiny, immature vocals, the assured quality of which would soon take an astonishing leap forward. Still, The Real Thing is a great album that many regard as the band's best.
Angel Dust (Slash/Reprise ‘92) Rating: A
Faith No More is truly a band that defies categorization, and never is that more apparent than on Angel Dust. Not nearly as commercial as The Real Thing and subsequently not nearly as popular (at least in the U.S.), Angel Dust still highlights the best quality of Faith No More; they do what they want without sticking to any particular style. This album is all over the place, with each song sounding uniquely different. From the bouncily funky yet oddly eccentric “Land Of Sunshine” onto the hard hitting "Caffeine" (which will definitely give you that kick in the ass you need), through the anthemic single “Midlife Crisis,” the rolling piano pop of “RV” (which surges come chorus time - if you can call it a chorus, that is), the alternately atmospheric and explosive "Smaller And Smaller," the melodic thrill of the soaring “Everything’s Ruined,” the violent thrash of “Malpractice,” the melodic Mike Patton showcase about "Kindergarten," the kiddie chants of the perverted “Be Aggressive,” the futuristic keyboards and soulful vocals of the hummable “A Small Victory,” the funky James Bond meets David Bowie soundscapes of "Crack Hitler," the twisted shrieks of “Jizzlobber”. . . even the strange cover of the “Midnight Cowboy” theme that closes the album - Angel Dust runs the gamut of musical styles and never allows the listener to get bored. Keyboard player Roddy Bottum is brilliant as he weaves a distinct tone through each of these 13 songs, while guitarist Jim Martin (in his last album with the band) adds an impressive array of heavy riffs. However, it is Patton in particular who steals the show with one of the most spectacularly over the top vocal performances of all time; whether he's sweetly singing in a whisper or screaming in a blood-curdling rage, you will not forget his performance. Alas, his performance was to go unrewarded, as Angel Dust is perhaps the most defiant follow up to a breakthrough album in rock history, the band all but daring their fans to stay the course on a bumpy but often brilliant ride. For that reason alone, you just gotta love this band for trying to create a totally unique experience (and for their indifferent attitude towards the industry itself), though this makes them deliberately difficult at times. Angel Dust is a one of a kind album whose bizarre music may not be for everyone, but anyone searching for something “different” who likes their music heavy should find it fascinating.
King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime (Slash/Reprise ‘95) Rating: A-
Critics hailed the emergence of a highly original heavy metal force with The Real Thing, were subsequently baffled by the absurdly experimental but often brilliant Angel Dust, and finally got fed up with Faith No More with King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime. With lyrics like “shit lives forever” and “I deserve a reward, cuz I’m the best fuck you ever had” it’s no wonder that pundits jumped off the Faith No More bandwagon completely, and lyrics definitely are a weakness. More than ever before, these songs succeed or fail because of singer Mike Patton, whose soulful croon elevates the dramatic mood pieces (“Evidence,” “Take This Bottle,” “King For A Day,” “Just A Man”), while his guttural growl makes parts of the thrashier numbers particularly unpleasant (“Cuckoo For Caca,” “Ugly In The Morning”). Faith No More remain schizophrenic, but generally in a good way, though they underutilize keyboardist Roddy Bottum; perhaps he was too busy with Imperial Teen to fully participate? For his part, temporary new guitarist Trey Spruance (recruited from Patton's other band, Mr. Bungle) is a more straightforward player than Jim Martin (whose parting - documented on "Get Out," which immediately sets the pissed off tone of the album - was apparently unamicable), but he's really good too in his own way, and this album's idiosyncratic charms and considerable character comes across over repeat listens. Indeed, for all its over the top flaws this is still a highly entertaining listen (“Ricochet” and “Digging The Grave” can be added to the growing list of classic Faith No More rockers) whose considerable r&b elements showed that their recent cover of The Commodores’ “Easy” wasn’t quite as tongue in cheek as everybody had assumed. The brassy horns of "Star A.D." and the gospel choir of "Just A Man" are other neat new twists on an imperfect yet perfectly riveting album that really grew on me over time (Patton’s psychotic outbursts aside which can still grate on me), the band ultimately weighing in with another richly rewarding effort.
Album Of The Year (Slash/Reprise ‘97) Rating: B+
Though more straightforward than past efforts, Album Of The Year still manages to remain the strange hybrid that could only be Faith No More. Actually, there's a vast, echoed sound that's unique to this album, which finds them playing to their strengths. By this I mean that keyboardist Roddy Bottum again occupies a position of prominence, and though his modernized synth sounds seem somewhat more gimmicky than in the past, Bottum still gives an impressive performance. Also, singer Mike Patton tones down the inane growling and shrieking that occasionally made listening to King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime a chore; here he shows off his many styles with aplomb, becoming the band’s biggest asset. From the grinding guitars (courtesy of new guitarist Jon Hudson) of “Collision” to the celestial beauty of “Stripsearch,” the big riffs, futuristic keyboard flourishes, and anthemic chorus of the superb “Last Cup Of Sorrow,” and onto the staccato riffing and rapid fire vocals of "Naked In Front Of The Computer," Faith No More delivers a more consistent set than on the last album, whose peaks rose higher and which was winningly weirder. Acoustic guitars come to the fore on the soulful beginning to “Helpless,” but eventually the electric guitars turn up for a soaring chorus, only to be replaced again by a serene tunefulness before building to an exciting and desperate finale, concluding with Patton’s anguished cries of “help.” Bottum’s carnival-esque keyboards are interspersed with a thrash punk attack on “Mouth To Mouth,” while “Ashes To Ashes” is another highly effective track showcasing their idiosyncratic melding of coiled guitar frenzy, keyboard-led atmospherics, and Patton’s alternately beautiful and bellowed vocals. Alas, there are times when the band tries to do too much at once, but jumping in and out of so many musical styles keeps things sounding fresh, and when Patton breaks out his falsetto croon on the r&b flavored pop of “She Loves Me Not,” it’s clear that there’s little that this band can’t do. Maybe a few of the shorter songs aren't completely fulfilling, and a case could be made that certain songs coast by on atmosphere alone, but despite its flaws this turned out to be a fine finale for Faith No More, who sadly broke up soon after this album's completion. Perhaps it was because the album flopped commercially, or perhaps it was simply a case of the band doing things their way to the very end, saying what they had to say (strong though it is, Album Of The Year shows few moves that they hadn't already shown) and then disappearing. Their influence would live on, however, as a slew of nu-metal bands (Korn, System Of A Down, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, and so on) influenced by Faith No More (who are far superior to all of those bands) would soon ride a wave of phenomenal (if short-lived in some cases) success.
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