Review Summary: All behold the spectacle.
If you were to ask anyone
about what they would describe Mr. Bungle as, it’s a surefire guarantee that there would be extremely varied opinions and responses to said question. Some would describe the group as funk metal or ska, while others label them as avant-garde. Hell, a select few would just claim them to be a strictly “experimental” band. However, with the absurd amount of variety present in Mr. Bungle’s discography spanning throughout the nineties, it can be said that the band will never
be labelled as just a specific genre. It’s impossible. At one moment, the band could be playing funk-flavoured metal, and the next second it could be middle-eastern influenced techno music. No label would ever
fit with a band such as this. The band’s next two albums would capitalize on said variety, and would increase the band's cult and critical popularity to an astounding effect.
Produced by the avant-garde legend John Zorn, ”Mr. Bungle”
is a seventy-minute long experience that is well worth the length. The subjects of the ten tracks on the album can come off as discouraging. Notable instances such as the overly sexual ”The Girls of Porn”
and ”Squeeze Me Macaroni”
- the former about a narrator’s pornography addiction and training for intercourse through said vice; the latter an explicit sexual hors d'oeuvre featuring food products (“I was givin' some head to some french bread/It was a four course orgy on the spread of my bed”). Both tracks showcase the outlandish, grotesque songwriting the band would be known for in their early years. Tracks such as ”Stubb (A Dub)”
captures a glimpse at the somewhat more “serious” side of Bungle - that isn’t really saying much though - with themes such as the slow death of a dog; and of a paraplegic gimp who uses foreign substances to escape his cruel reality by imagining himself as famous historical figures and celebrities.
Samples are commonplace on the album amidst all the obscenities, ranging from pinball machines (such as “Cyclone”), “Blue Velvet”, Kentucky Fried Chicken advert outtakes - all the way to recordings of the band train-hopping and witnessing “a man described as a skin-head assaulting his son”. These samples either add to the charm of the album, or take away from the album’s quality overall - an acquired taste perhaps? The musicianship on the album is absolutely flawless, the perfection of the band’s craft from years of practice paid off with immaculate, ornate artistry that no one else could even come close to in skill or groove. While other musicians had showcased an ability to switch genres at a whim, Mr. Bungle puts them all to shame. At one minute, they’ll be playing a lullaby of sorts laden with keyboards and high-pitched vocals, and as soon as you know it, they’ll be playing the closest thing to “funk metal” and/or ska. It’s stunning to say the least.
While future endeavors would prove far more fruitful, ”Mr. Bungle”
provided a magnificent beginning to the band’s peak - not only in skill, but in songwriting; and in being innovative for the time period. All the while, grunge and alternative rock was just on the horizon, and hair metal and synthpop were in their death throes. Mr. Bungle had spent nearly six whole years perfecting their craft, down to the littlest details. Gone were the irritating generic death metal riffs found on ”The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny”
and ”Bowel of Chiley”
, as well as the poor production that came with most demo tapes of the 1980s, replaced by the crystal clear, articulate production of one John Zorn. With masterful use of samples that rarely fail to amuse the listener and tend to be an acquired taste to many, and grotesque, explicit song topics that would make Tipper Gore squirm uncomfortably, ”Mr. Bungle”
is not only an album worth listening to, but is an experience that must be heard to be believed.