One Step, One Round, One Punch at a Time – Faith No More
Posted: by Findlay
A new monthly meditation in progression in art through music. Each entry will focus on one song, from each album, of one band, chartering their progression, history and sound throughout their career. This will reveal the spine of the bands back catalogue, providing a great jump off point for new listeners and points of debate for fans. This month’s band is Alternative-Weirdo-Funk-Rock-Experimental Rock band, Faith No More.
To many people, Faith No More are more than a band. They’re a complete acceptance of being the biggest and best version of you, you could ever be. A big encouraging thumbs up to that head shave or wrecked jeans or lipstick or pogoing in McDonalds or being a 7ft Goth or being a fucking nerd or anything. Faith No More know because they are. Freaks for freaks. Existing in two distinct phases with two distinct vocalists. The first two albums of pure party fuck rock with Chuck Mosely wailing and yelling, then the other 5 albums with bizarro-operatic madman Mike Patton steering the band into a full buffet of styles and tastes. Conducting the ship of weirdos through seas and soups unknown. Faith No More isn’t a band that relies on the greatness of the vocalists to carry it though. Everyone on the team plays an intrinsic role. Puffy’s hard toms and flam snares, Roddy’s signature (and kind of weirdly but beautifully cheap) sounding synths, Jim Martin’s classic heavy metal guitar and Sweet Billy Gould’s dynamic, funk basslines, everyone needs the other. The machine needs its parts. To me, Faith No More were the first band I truly identified with. Sure, I liked bands, but FNM felt like people I wanted to know. I wanted to know them because I was sure they wanted to know me. A fellow outcast. LET’S DO THIS:
The Jungle – We Care A Lot (1985 Mordam)
1985. Punk was basically dead and everyone was past it. Too serious and clad in its own rules and stony-faced elitism, punk was ushered out for thrash, hair metal and funk rock. Which is where we find Faith No More’s debut album. We Care A Lot is a funk rock hangover from the punk era. Rolling and dancier while being just as snotty. Here, Vocalist Chuck Mosely is king and perfect for this kind of music, even if WCAL isn’t that strong an album. There’s a lot of empty space and it’s a bit of a mess but the good shit sticks out. “The Jungle” is yer man. Chuck just shouting and getting you the fuck up while the guitar chugs, the drums pound. Then it quietens down while Chuck croons badly and haunting synths eerily creep over the drums and everything kicks back in. A full on party in a haunted mansion. It’s fucking wild man. Imagine hearing this in ’85. You’d be losing your mind. Voices come from everywhere and command you to dance. The house needs its blood.
We Care A Lot – Introduce Yourself… (1987 Slash)
Introduce Yourself… is the perfect funk rock album. I know that’s a fucker of a sentence but it’s true. Tighter, dancier, fun, full of GIGANTIC choruses that should, by law, only be allowed to be sung at house parties. A full neon graffiti spraypaint mural at the skatepark full of pop culture references and fuck you’s with Chuck yelling and talking like a surfer burnout and the band keeping their instruments on them long enough before they shed them and join in the party. “We Care a Lot’s” first version on 1985’s We Care A Lot album is okay but it’s a bit lacking and flimsy. Introduce Yourself…’s version is punchier and gave FNM their first bonafide radio hit. The perfect pace for pogoing with lyrics about crime, garbage pail kids and Lenin, and a chorus that sounds like you’ve made a million friends just by joining in. “We Care A Lot” is a total fucking banger. No question. I love you Chuck.
From Out Of Nowhere! – The Real Thing, (1989 Slash)
The band’s first album with new vocalist Mike Patton after Chuck was kicked out (for reasons still not completely concrete) and the album that shot them full fuck into the mainstream, having them show up on the soundtracks for Gremlins 2, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey as well as Headbangers Ball. It’s kind of a Frankenstein album because you can hear it was half made with Chuck, half made with Mike — resulting in a super tight, stomp-til-u-drop metal album with Patton’s operatic-gonzo singing instead of Chuck’s snotty shouting. Despite this, The Real Thing is a full blown classic. Every band member is showing how essential they are with the right edge of weirdness and metal, giving us 10 songs of brilliant, totally unique, rad as fuck music that didn’t spawn any imitators because no one could replicate it. An impossible formula to decode, living inside wrecked doc martins and multi-coloured shirts. “Epic” has always filled dancefloors but “From Out Of Nowhere” is choice cut. Album opener and an absolute scream into your life; Jim Martin’s heavy metal guitars fist pumpingly good and Roddy’s synths adding that extra bop to bring your speakers to a swirling new life. It’s a crazy rock song but with Patton’s wailing and confident new position, it’s amazing.
Kindergarten – Angel Dust (1992 Slash)
The knuckle crack. A band shedding its skin and working completely in perfect sync. Angel Dust sets a standard for progression in a band’s sound. Simple terms like “Metal” and “Funk” dissipating into the painting alongside Screaming Hardcore, Swooning Opera, Cheerleading and Circus Music with added slashes of pure Pop too. Angel Dust came out to fucking raving reviews and it’s no wonder. The band pushed themselves further than anyone thought they could. That unbreakable formula being bettered and bettered until no one knew they got there. The beginning of the chalkboard still there but faded, almost into the sea. The first album with Patton captaining the ship and you can’t NOT see his influence. Everyone is on top fucking form but Patton’s lust for mondo bizarre culture bleeding through and reshaping everything. This is theatrics in spades. The chorus of “Kindergarten” is a soaring piece of greatness, completely leaving the old funk rock roots of previous releases and sailing to its final form. Jim Martins guitars, and especially solo, are utterly ripping and Billy Gould’s smart whip bass retaining its funkiness in the breakdown but with a maturity that funk bass shouldn’t have(?). Killer. Patton’s delivery of the line “Held Back Again” is maybe my favourite thing on this whole album.
Star A.D. – King For a Day, Fool For a Lifetime (1995 Slash)
Another set of skin shed, this time the new skin was chintzy suits as the band went even ~deeper~ into its pool of influence and came out like Lounge Lizards, soaked in Jazz, Big Band, Pop, Hardcore Punk, Ramblin’ Country and Noise rock. Jim Martin had left and his metal edge was gone, leaving the band with a less Rock edge and more of a Punk edge with new temp (and Patton’s other band Mr. Bungle)’s guitarist Trey Spruance. KFAD is weirdly overshadowed by Angel Dust when it shouldn’t be. The singles were an odd choice and its way more esoteric but it’s actually their best album. An achievement in pure sound and wide-ranging palette. It’s my personal favourite, the first FNM album I ever owned, and one of the first albums I ever bought with my own money (the other two that day being Goldfingers S/T album and Lit’s A Place In The Sun). It’s an album for weirdos and people with no attention span. It’s a nightmare of genres, smooth as fucking lino, smoky and scary. Like a ghost train through a blues bar. “Star A.D.” is by far not the greatest song on KFAD but it’s an amazing sample of the record. Listen to those honking horns and schmaltzy voice. Those palm muted guitars, warbly keys and tribal chants. Its low-brow art come to life. Pure progression and existing only to please people willing to believe a funk rock band can be so much more. WE ARE FOREVER, WE ARE FOREVER.
Mouth to Mouth – Album of the Year (1997 Slash)
The bands last album before their split and an album full of messages of departure. Like the cover photo of Czechoslovakia president Masaryk receiving flowers before leaving on a train, or the back covers pictures of a funeral. Even the final song “Pristina”’s lyrics feature the hauntingly sung “I’ll be with you.” Everyone knew it was coming. Between lives, deaths and commitments to other bands (mainly Patton’s) the band were dissolving. AOTY is a bit of an oddity. It’s unfairly misjudged because people were coming at it too straight an angle, even for FNM. The grab bag of influences widening further to trip-hop, to straight up rock, to spazcore, to soul but the running theme and flow of the album is much more stringent. Each song is each song is each song. Cut to cut. It feels jarring, like listening to a greatest hits rather than a single body of work, but it’s an album I’ve come to absolutely fucking love over the years. “Mouth To Mouth” is my go-to song on the album. A pure crowd baiter with sideshow keys and Puffs stabbing drum beat before kicking into a pogoing beat that doesn’t let up for the rest of the song. The razor sharp guitars at the chorus with some of Patton’s catchiest lyrics (that I used to have written on my bedroom wall) “I CAN DRESS UP THE DEAD MAN, BUT I CANT BRING HIM BACK TO LIFE” making you sing along before you realize you’re doing it.
Superhero – Sol Invictus (2015 Ipecac)
Faith no More’s return from a near 20 year absence after years and rumblings of Reunion speak. Bringing back all members from Album of the Year, Sol Invictus feels more like the mature older brother of Angel Dust. All the imbalance from the wild array of genres, simmering into a mix of pure gonzo rock and it’s a whole heap of fun punctured with hugely memorable and beautiful as fuck moments. Reunion albums are notoriously sticky and weak like an HMV price sticker but FNMs is one of the best ones. A resurrection of an entity that has seen beyond the veil and come back stunned and focused. There are a lot of choruses and melodies that are so singable on Sol Invictus, but “Superhero” is the song that gives the band their strongest throughline into their back catalogue. The band shouting “Go” from all angles while the beat pounds and disorientates you, the razor sharp guitars in the verse and that HUGE piano chorus echoing the iconic ending “Epic” off The Real Thing. As per the previous Helmet column, I’ve linked to a recent live session of FNM doing “Superhero” not just to show the band as they are now, but how TIGHT they are. That session is fucking incredible and is STUDIO tight with just a shade of organic sound there to give you a little taster for revisiting the band, which you should absolutely do.
Faith No More will always be my heroes, even if they never make another album again because they made music only those guys could make. No compromise. Not only that, “King for a Day” let me convince my mum to listen to it because I told her that it was the “most Simply Red Faith No More” album. She fucking hated it.