I’ve been away for longer than I hoped I would be, but I am back to give you an all-new Track by Track, for a band that I particularly like. Faith No More.
Throughout their career; between 1985-1998, and 2009 to now, this band has been experimental rock royalty, with rich instrumentation, groundbreaking vocals, and amazing live shows. It’s a pity that they are, in the grand scheme of things, underrated. I have been fortunate to listen to FNM throughout my life, as my father has always been a fan of the group. He even saw them perform live. As you know by now, I will go through each album and select a song I feel to be the best of that album, so here we go. And also, a full playlist of each song, plus a few others, is available here:
AS THE WORM TURNS- WE CARE A LOT (1985)
FNM’s first album was; sad to say, fairly weak compared to some of the stuff that they would eventually release. That doesn’t mean it lacks any saving graces, and there are a number of factors which affect it.
Money was a major factor, as the members pooled money and recorded 5 songs without a record label, they also recorded them very quickly, giving little time for the band to polish and improve the songs. The most detrimental factor is the vocals, however. Chuck Mosely was the vocalist for the band’s first 2 albums, before being let go because of his erratic behaviour. His vocal style can be described as loud and relatively tuneless, though he wasn’t a bad lyricist, writing many of the tracks on this album. He would do a number of solo projects, and occasionally join the band on stage during their reunion tour. He died in 2017, which is sad.
It is best to describe We Care a Lot as an album of demos; with its title track being half finished and eventually re-recorded for the next album. I may have given this album a bad rep, but it has its good moments. I love As the Worm Turns, for its prominent keyboard; provided by Roddy Bottum, and its excellent bass by Billy Gould. It is a brutal, rough piece of music, and shows a lot of potential in the band at this early point in their career.
SPIRIT -INTRODUCE YOURSELF (1987)
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: CHINESE ARITHMETIC, INTRODUCE YOURSELF, WE CARE A LOT ’87
This is much better. The songs on this album are much more polished and better produced than those of their debut album, helped by the support of Warner Music Group, who had bought out their record label, Slash Records in 1986. This funding and the opportunity to release their new album to a wider audience was positive for the album. The music is a lot better, and Mosely’s vocal is consistent, rather than being all over the place in the previous album. He still wasn’t great though.
Spirit is the closing track of the album and is one of the best on this album. Starting with a chorus of Mosely singing into nothingness, the guitar begins and the song kicks into overdrive, with the instruments playing aggressively and with; dare I say it, spirit and excellence. The music is more cohesive throughout the album. If you can deal with Mosely’s vocals, then you will probably like this.
SURPRISE! YOUR DEAD-THE REAL THING (1989)
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: EPIC, WOODPECKERS FROM MARS, EDGE OF THE WORLD
The first two Faith No More records were ambitious, if not sprawling messes and mashes of ideas that sometimes worked but often didn’t. The decision to sack vocalist Chuck Mosley and replace him with the youthful crackpot Mike Patton proved the wisest of Billy Gould’s (bass), Roddy Bottum’s (keyboard), Jim Martin’s (guitar) and Mike ‘Puffy’ Bordin’s (drums) career. Mike Patton was in his own band, Mr Bungle, before he auditioned for FNM, becoming their new vocalist. Listening to this album, you can see why fans prefer him. The man is insanely talented. He can sing softly, and he can let out blood-curdling screams that would make your average screamo band look like utter pretenders.
The Real Thing is regarded as one of Metal’s best albums, due to its music, its vocals, and lyrics. It is a fantastic album. Surprise! Your Dead! is a testament to this, with its downright brutal guitar work, and the equally brutal vocals of Mike Patton, which while not the highest pitch vocal screams he has done, are some of his best.
CAFFEINE-ANGEL DUST (1992)
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: ALL OF THE ALBUM
Hands down, my favourite FNM album. After The Real Thing’s success, the band decided that they would not make a sequel album, but would instead release this album. And this is an album, you could listen to these songs separately, but this is something one must listen to as an album first and foremost. With this album, the band had ditched their rap-metal roots and went fully experimental. It paid off.
Caffeine is just one part of this piece, and it is frankly amazing. Mike Patton wrote the song during a sleep deprivation activity, where he kept awake by drinking lots of coffee (Patton is a complete teetotal). This track shows off not only the experimental nature of the album but just the vocals of Mike Patton, whose unprecedented range of six octaves makes him perhaps one of the most versatile performers alive today. I would even go as far as to call him even better than Freddie Mercury, just for his range. The man did an album where he sang Italian Oldies from the 50’s and 60’s!
THE GENTLE ART OF MAKING ENEMIES-KING FOR A DAY…FOOL FOR A LIFETIME (1995)
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: RICCOCHET, JUST A MAN, EVIDENCE
King for a Day is more eclectic in its musical inspirations, giving it more variety, but also dismantling some of its consistency. That doesn’t make it a bad album. Far from it, but it is a weaker follow up to its direct predecessor, though Angel Dust was a hard album to follow up.
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies is perhaps the best song because it shows the best of the band. The song has some excellent vocals from Mike Patton, who manages to both his sense of humour in the song and his insane vocal talent. And the guitar in this song is absolutely amazing, though as with many FNM songs, the bass is king. The song’s lyrics make several allusions to a book of the same name by James Mcneill Whistler. According to Genius.com, Whistler wrote the book as a diatribe against critics and acquaintances that attacked his work as an artist. Its reference here may have been an allusion to the struggles Faith No More faced while recording their previous album, 1992’s Angel Dust, where journalists and A&R executives were eventually barred from the studio while the band attempted to complete recording.
ASHES TO ASHES- ALBUM OF THE YEAR (1997)
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: STRIPSEARCH, LAST CUP OF SORROW
I have a lot of love for this song, and I always have. I’ve basically been listening to it since I was a baby, as it was a song my Dad would play and get me to sleep with. Some would think that a song by an experimental metal band would be the last thing you’d play an infant to get to sleep, but that isn’t the case. While the opening guitar will not strike you as a soothing sound, the multilayered song, as it plays, with the harmony backing vocals and the keyboard makes it a dream to listen to. It helps that Patton’s vocals are a lot more conventional in this song, he is not screaming, he is singing, and it is brilliant.
Album of the year, as an album, however, doesn’t do it for me. While the songs are indeed very good, varying in style, going from brutal, unapologetic rockers, to softer, more lounge music fare, as an album it feels like the creativity of the band is waning a little. I would say that the album is consistently good, though certainly not excellent. You may find enjoyment from this one if you are just getting acquainted with the music of FNM.
Album of the Year marked the last album the band released in the 1990’s, and for quite a while after. In 1998, Faith No More had split up. Unlike many bands, it was seemingly not as tense or as bitter a breakup as others I could mention, but it led to a 12-year gap in activity. Not that the members were doing nothing with their time, Mike Patton did many solo albums, collaborations, and released an album with his original band in 1999. I couldn’t tell you what the other members were doing though. I know Chuck Mosely released a solo album with a re-recording of We Care a Lot (that was actually quite good, and featured original guitarist for Faith No More, Jim Martin). So, between 1998-2009, there was no FNM.
SUPERHERO- SOL INVICTUS (2015)
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: SUNNY SIDE UP, MATADOR, FROM THE DEAD
In 2009, myself, my Dad, Mum, and Sam were all in our conservatory watching Download Festival 2009, awaiting the return of Faith No More, who had just reunited. It was a great show, and for a while, I had a bootleg live album of that performance, because it was great. They did a cover of Poker Face by Lady Ga Ga with their song Chinese Arithmetic. For 6 years, on and off, the band was doing live shows across Europe, and around 2013 and 2014, the band were even performing new songs, which would be released in 2015’s Sol Invictus. Sol Invictus, the right way to do a comeback album.
Superhero is just a great tune, it doesn’t compromise, it is just a solid rocker through and through. There are two elements that really make me enjoy this song above all the others on this album. The first is the piano; as if that is a surprise. Different from the other albums, this one features an actual piano, rather than keyboards. What makes it even more interesting to listen to though is perhaps that the piano is out of sync with the song and a bit out of tune, but it works. The other thing that is special is the vocals. The vaguely middle eastern vocal-less bridge during the instrumental section gives the song even more flavour. Superhero is great, as is Sol Invictus.
And that brings an end to this Track By Track Retrospect on FNM. I’d say give them a go, if not already. 2015’s Sol Invictus and 1997’s Album of the Year are good starting points for you to get into the group. While the future of the band is shrouded in secret, and only known to them, we can only wait. And we can only listen.