Review Summary: Oh, fat bastards indeed.
Can you believe that there was a time not long ago that Limp Bizkit was the biggest band in the world" That band single-handedly was the hottest group from 1999-2002, give or take a few months. Being that my early teen years were during this time, it goes without saying that LB was my ***. I was enthralled with the Significant Other
album, just totally possessed. And it was hard not to be. They were all over TRL, they successfully crossed over into the pop (corporate) world, kept a firm foot in the rock/metal world, and they even marked their territory in the world of hip-hop to boot. And while I was taking this all in, one day I was reading the album’s booklet. I was reading over the normal shout-outs and production credits, and then I came across something that made me take a second look.
They thanked Faith No More. I had heard of them through passing, and to be quite blunt I really had a disliking for “Epic” (a love/hate relationship that still stands). A little earlier in the year of 1999, I just so happened to be at a flea market and I picked up Angel Dust
for a whopping half-dollar. Being that I was not even 13 at the time, that album immediately went over my head. But as I was saying about that booklet, I decided to give FNM another chance (Hey, if Fred Durst and Co. like it, it MUST be good, right"), and it’s been love ever since.
I took the safe route at first, and bought their first greatest hits album (with a review of said album written by yours truly on here) while consciously avoiding Angel Dust. Growing out of that collection of songs quickly, I turned my focus back onto that certain album that had eluded me earlier. Soon after, Angel Dust was committed to memory even though I had to grow up a little to realize just how groundbreaking it is. Coincidentally enough, it was my winter break from middle school around this time, so I had some Christmas money to spare. A few friends and I went to our local mall, and I went into Sam Goody as I normally did. Faith No More were rapidly becoming my favorite band, but I needed their entire discography to put the official stamp on them. And so it was, I thumbed through the “F” section of the store’s albums and found what many fans consider to be their first great album, The Real Thing
There were only three songs on the greatest hits cd that represented this lp, and I certainly did come to this album rather cold. Turns out, that devilish greatest hits album did a severe disservice to this record as some of the songs I had never heard before were ultra-heavy, and eclectic. This album carried some very sophisticated, intricate, and impressive music that opened the floodgates to my ears over what a group of musicians of this caliber could truly offer, despite the album’s flaws. And God bless them for their talents, for I know as a fact I wouldn’t have such an open mind about music as I do now if it weren’t for this important, seminal band.
While I’m heaping the album’s praise, I also have to admit that this record would not be the first one I would recommend to people whom are curious about Faith No More. Not a chance. While I regret saying that, there are just factors at hand that cannot be overlooked when it comes down to it. Through my eyes, the fatal flaw with this album is is that it is very much a product of its time, and it is the album that has aged the worse amongst their catalog (and yes, I’m including the Chuck-era albums, too). The production is slick, shiny and almost over-produced as most rock & pop albums of the 80s were. And while most albums during this era were released mostly on vinyl with the cd format not fully acknowledged as the de facto media, there are limitations sound-wise on this album that can be annoying. It could use a well-deserved facelift ala a remastering project.
The other major flaw in my opinion is Mike Patton’s vocal performance. It is worth noting that this was Patton’s first major recording project. It is also well-known that he had next to zero time to both write the lyrics and record his vocals, so I do have empathy. However, those early Mr. Bungle demos pre-FNM showed a young Patton coming up with some amazing sounds with his voice, and the fact that almost none of his previous explorations showed up on this album is very disappointing. Instead of the all-encompassing delivery that the Patton we all know and love was soon to inherit with later recordings, the nasally performance he delivers here can be too much at times, regardless of the moments of brilliance he displays on here. Imagine if the self-assured, experienced Mike Patton of today had another crack at this album. I don’t even want to cook up that scenario in my head. But please understand that I don’t dislike his performance entirely, as most of the time it works on this record. He was very gifted early on with melodies, and Patton does deliver some quality soul on these soulful tracks. Perhaps maybe since I came to this album a little later than the rest, it took some getting used to. But the cheese stands alone, and good music is always good music no matter what which is something this album makes good on.
From out of nowhere comes “From Out of Nowhere”, a classic album opener in which we realize very quickly how much the band has gelled just by kicking out an unreliable ingredient, and adding another ingredient they found in a remote town in California that also happened to sing for another band that was capable of the most avant-garde, terrifying music made. The song is a rather good implication of what lies within. The drums are complex, the keyboards charming, and the guitar is crunchier than potato chips. The song is also aided by a catchy chorus, and the video for this song is also infamous for Patton breaking a glass which in turn made him lose feeling in his hand. Also, his bicycle shorts.
Many people who know how much I love Faith No More have asked me to explain what exactly “it” is. I tell those curious people that “it” is either sex or masturbation and that “it” is also a curse for this band. “Epic” did everything a song written by a hungry band could do. It shot up the charts, got them major exposure on MTV, and the followers of pop music all took notice of this band and consumed them until they were no longer consumable for their tastes (Not to mention Patton becoming a pin-up model and sex symbol for underage girls, much to his horror). While the song is indeed a pure rocker if you put the static for it aside, I believe the song is the worse track the general public could ever know Faith No More by. “It” has deemed FNM as a one-hit wonder in the USA, and “it” is frustrating that the more brilliant side of the band is largely ignored here. I die a little inside every time I have to hum or sing “it” for some folks to put together who this Faith No More group is I’m always going on about. But putting my own feelings aside, “Epic” is a bonafide classic that still gets radio play to this day, and that is something I should genuinely learn to appreciate more considering some of the song’s more mediocre peers “it” gets played on the radio with.
The third track of the album and the sole song the band themselves have gone on record saying they loathe; “Falling to Pieces” is rather undeserving of the shade it has acquired. While the song itself isn’t nearly as intelligent as the others on the album, it has a charm to it that can’t be explained. The song is led by a simple bass note by the legendary Bill Gould, and Mike Bordin’s drumming gives the song an almost wavy feel, and in my opinion the rhythm to the song is a good example of how forward-thinking and developed the Gould/Bordin unit really is. They delivered a mighty groove to an otherwise lyrically-corny song that demands repeated listens to form an opinion on a song that has divided FNM fans for years.
Another unspeakably brilliant trait this band had was their knack for how they sequenced their albums. The above first 3 songs that started the album off in a pop-vein was all an illusion to not prepare the listener for what track 4 was all about. In what is probably the most straightforward heavy-metal song by Faith No More, “Surprise! You’re Dead” is uncompromising. The absolute thrash metal of the song could stand shoulder to shoulder with Slayer, and it also contains shifting time signatures that would make Dream Theater blush. Songs like this as well as the one and only Jim Martin are major reasons why they are so beloved in the metal community, no matter how hard they tried to distance themselves from that world. Another highlight to this song is Patton’s light-speed word delivery which to this day I can’t decipher without looking at the lyrics. For my metal-obsessed folks reading this review that haven’t discovered this album just yet, you will find familiar shelter on this song.
The ease of transitioning from beauty to brutality Faith No More possessed is clearly for all to see on the following two songs. To me, these two songs are the heart & soul of this album. The outwardly gorgeous and inwardly ferocious “Zombie Eaters” has long been a fan-favorite. The dark acoustic guitar, the subtle cymbal splashes, and incredible soundscape on keyboard by Roddy-Bottum-The-Great create such a tense mood, and the vocal performance of Patton just takes this absolute masterpiece of a song to a new level. The topic of the song is largely believed to be about an immature, dependant man with a severe lack of ambition (but using a baby as a possible allegory). After the quiet blissfulness of the beginning of the song, the track’s true form rears its ugly head. Everything in the song is turned up with Patton’s vocals just completely haunting the music until it wears down to the blissful end and thus releases its hands from your neck. I honestly feel I’m not giving the song the accurate description it deserves since it really is so far-reaching, but I do recommend you pay extra attention to this masterpiece. Also, do keep in mind to have a short breather after it ends as the next song is the album’s title track and much like Zombie Eaters before it, the song is another suite. Now, I’m not trying to take a shortcut and not describe the title track, but it is very similar to Zombie Eaters in terms of broad ambition and the mixing (perhaps clashing") of the beauty and brutality I mentioned earlier. The track also has the best lyrics on the album, and how Patton left the subject up for interpretation was genius.
On a lighter note, “Underwater Love” sounds like pop music gold when in actuality Mike Patton is crooning about drowning his girlfriend. Pretty sick stuff, but the music itself is bright, funky, and Roddy Bottum especially shines with his organ-laced keyboards carrying this song on its back. “The Morning After” is a rare miss for me as I just never could get into the song, and there really aren’t many FNM songs I dislike. The beginning of the song sounds clunky, maybe even a little obnoxious. Not to mention it almost sounds like two songs in one that just aren’t compatible with each other. But it does seem to be an endearing favorite, and during FNM’s reunion tour, many people took to those dreaded social media outlets to pull for the song to make the set list. Sadly, I don’t think those fans’ voices were heard.
As the album begins to wind down, Faith No More throw a characteristic wrench in the form of an instrumental called “Woodpecker from Mars”. Basically another metal piece with some dramatic flair, the off-time signatures make a return with Bottum and Bordin leading the way. Billy Gould seemed to have inadvertently thrown down a 100% funk bass line in an otherwise full out metal assault, and the fact that it works is simply astounding. Jim Martin also gets his time to shine as well letting out some impressive guitar noises in the middle part of the song. Being that Faith No More is very much a keyboard and bass driven band, Martin (and the other numerous guitar players they have had) seemed almost secondary to their collective stew. However, Jim Martin’s sound really made an influence during the band’s early days and eventual popularity, with this instrumental being a perfect example.
Faith No More often covered Sabbath’s “War Pigs” during their live gigs, and the cover is played pretty close to the original. While the cover is by no means bad (quite the contrary), it very much sticks out like a sore thumb on the album. Mike Bordin delivers a fantastic performance, and he has also been very vocal about his love of Sabbath throughout the years which I’d imagine played a big part in him securing a gig as the drummer for Ozzy’s solo band. I have mixed feelings overall about bands recording covers for their albums, and this is no different. Covers usually go down well as b-sides to singles, not for just another track on an album. For me personally, I feel it disrupts the mood and flow and while Black Sabbath is another big-time favorite group of mine, the cover was unnecessary.
Through quiet snapping fingers and Patton stirring ice in a drink while harmonizing comes “Edge of the World”, a sexy little track that closes out the album perfectly. With no guitar and a wonderful piano performance by Bottum, Patton sings in a first person narrative of a man deeply in love with a woman that’s way less than half of his age in this funny and bizarre tale. As the Bordin/Gould/Bottum three piece performs what may very well be their smoothest song ever, the instrument that blasts this song off into space is a well-placed and classy saxophone lead that ends the song off with the final fade of the music. Its songs like this that put on display how versatile and chameleon-like Faith No More are. While many bands experiment if only to not be stale, experimentation is in the collective blood of Faith No More and what separates them from the rest is that they can play anything, and it sounds sincere.
Looking back, I often laugh when I think about my early teenage years. I smoked my first cigarette. I experienced my first kiss. It was the first time I got drunk. The soundtrack of my life at the time was mostly Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses, and whatever rap music my older brother was listening to. All of the kids I went to school with and I were also way into Korn, back when they actually had something to say as opposed to their water-treading now. But my close circle of friends was very much into music, and we were always sharing music with each other even at such a young age. I got into many kinds of music thanks to my loved ones. But Faith No More, my number 1 band ever" Na, Limp Bizkit lead the way to them, and how many people can admit Limp Bizkit gave something back to them with a straight face" Umm, this guy.