Review Summary: 'King For a Day' still has a great deal of merit, but it's not completely engaging in the way that 'The Real Thing' and 'Angel Dust' managed to be despite their weak points.
Each Faith No More record saw a major change for the band. Introduce Yourself was the band's first record on a major label. The Real Thing saw vocalist Chuck Mosley be replaced by Mike Patton, a change that allowed the band to finally achieve great success. Angel Dust saw Mike Patton having a hand in the music writing credits for the first time, which caused the band to branch out stylistically. Eclectic as they are, Faith No More's sound had come to be defined by a strong band chemistry where every individual played a very important role in the groups's sound. The band had a unique sound on their first four records which was defined by Matt Wallace's production, Jim Martin's unique guitar tone, Roddy Bottum's atmospheric synth work, and a very tight rhythm section.
A number of changes occurred on the band's fifth studio album, 'King For a Day, Fool For a Lifetime'. Older fans of the band will definitely be shocked when they put this album on for the first time - Get Out begins they album with a very stripped-down, odd-time arrangement which sounds nothing like the band that played on Angel Dust - and, sadly, it sounds quite unremarkable in comparison.
There are a number of reasons for this change. For the first time, the band decided to use a different producer, though one with the same last name - Matt Wallace was replaced by Andy Wallace. This resulted in their dryest recording yet and the loss of a signature part of their sound.
The second major change was in the guitars. Jim Martin was replaced by Mr. Bungle's guitarist, Trey Spruance, who only stuck around for the recording of this record before quitting the band. As evidenced by his work with Mr. Bungle, he is a very diverse and talented guitarist, and he brings that talent to the table here. Unfortunately, his distorted guitar tone is much more generic than Jim Martin's, though he adapts to the variety of material on display on this record quite nicely.
These two changes brought a number of changes in the band's chemistry and overall sound. Roddy Bottum's keyboard work is fantastic as usual - when he plays. While the first four albums were saturated with his keyboard work, he's conspicuously absent on a number of the more rock-oriented songs here, including Get Out, Ricochet, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, and Digging the Grave, among others. I'm not sure why he decided not to play on these tracks, but the combination of the dry production, generic guitar tone, and lack of keyboards make these songs sound generic and lacking in power when compared to the band's past work.
The Mikes are up to their usual tricks here - Patton and Bordin deliver 100% on this record, delivering more of the greatness that they gave us in the past. Unfortunately, Billy Gould's bass work on this album does not stand out as much as it did in the past, partially because it's more buried in the mix than ever before, and partially because his bass lines follow the guitar lines here more than ever before, especially in the heavier material.
Make no mistake - this is still a wonderfully eclectic and diverse record that is worthy of the Faith No More name in a number of ways. It has a number of standout tracks, ranging from the loungy 'Evidence' to 'Star AD' to the bat*** insane 'Cuckoo for Caca', which has Patton screaming like a madman about a scat fetish. It's wildly entertaining stuff, but there seems to be more filler here than ever before, and FNM has never been good at avoiding filler. While the first 10 songs on the record are all distinct and memorable even when generic, the last few tracks tend to blend together and fade from memory. Songs 3-8 are definitely the high point of the record.
Due to all of the changes in their sound, a lot of the rock songs here simply sound far too safe and generic to be worthy of the adventurous musicians playing them. Not all of the genre tracks seem necessary, either - while 'Take this Bottle' provides a nice change of pace, it's essentially covering territory that the band already covered with 'Easy'. Sure, it must be nice for them to have an original song in that style, but functionally, it's doing nothing new.
All of the worst tendencies of this album would be taken much further on its follow-up, the ironically titled 'Album of the Year'. This album is far more listenable than that one, but it manages to simultaneously be a continuation of the eclectic and wild creativity of 'Angel Dust' and the beginning of the band's decline into - as they put it themselves - making bad music. In a way, this feels like their most eclectic record, as the genres here are more segregated than they were on Angel Dust - but they are also easier to pinpoint, making the music less unique.
In the same year (1995), two members of this band (Patton and Spruance) would release the second Mr. Bungle record, Disco Volante. While that album was also disappointing compared to its predecessor (one may say it is unlistenable due to its jammy atmosphere and lack of actual songs), it is a pure and noncommercial version of the eclecticism expressed here, and is certainly worth exploring for those who enjoy the wilder parts of this record.