Monday, February 21, 2011


(This one is, in part, for Jill, who gave me some confidence as a music reviewer when she asked my to write some album reviews for her short-lived ’zine. She liked what I had to say, but hated my overuse of ellipses. Well, Jill… As you can see, I still like ellipses, but have curtailed my use of them significantly.)

            Okay, this one is going to be a bit difficult for me. I almost reviewed this disc last week, but chickened out. Why? Simple. For a long time, I was a huge raving fan boy for Faith No More. They are still one of my all time favorite bands, and I wasn’t entirely certain I could review them objectively or not. After thinking about it for the last seven days or so, I concluded that I could now listen to this album with a mostly objective ear. So, here goes…

            Angel Dust is Faith No More’s fourth studio album (third major label), and their second with vocal wunderkind Mike Patton. I began listening to this band with Introduce Yourself, which boasted vocals from previous singer, Chuck Mosely. Now, I absolutely LOVED Introduce Yourself, and played it for whoever would listen. It was the sound of a fresh, young, and exciting band; a fresh, young, exciting band with a singer who couldn’t carry a tune in a sealed bucket. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved the record despite Chuck’s bleating with attitude, but it made it difficult for me to get others to hear what I heard in the band.

            Well, as things go, Faith No More ended up kicking Chuck out of the band. Not for sucking as a vocalist, though. Nope. Chuck got himself kicked out for doing things like falling asleep… on stage… during concerts… Yeah, I wouldn’t want you in same band as I am either if you did that to me. Bye, Chuck!

            When it came down to the next record, it seems the remaining members of the band pretty much had it written and recorded while they looked for a vocalist. Thanks to a demo tape heard by one of the band, they found Mike Patton, who wrote and recorded the lyrics for mega-blockbuster The Real Thing in about two weeks.

            All of that leads us to Angel Dust. Angel Dust was the first record that Patton was really involved in writing with the band, and it was here that he began to help direct the band to a sound so cutting edge that they were way ahead of most of us in terms of what popular music could be. Faith No More were now so far ahead of that curve, many of us could barely keep up. I tried though, and I’ve been rewarded handsomely for it.

            See, the Real Thing clicked with music audiences about a year after it was released, but it did click, and in a big way, eventually going platinum in that time span. The songs on the Real Thing were accessible, with an edge that just made them, and by extent the album, the cool thing of the moment. When a band that has struggled finally has that kind of success, they are faced with two options; either give the audience (and their record label) more of the same in hopes of continuing that success, or tell the record company to kiss off. Faith No More chose option number two. In fact, when Slash Records balked at releasing a record called Angel Dust, the band responded with the alternate title of Crack Hitler. Angel Dust it was…

            So what do we get with Angel Dust? Honestly, we get a record that is not nearly as radio-friendly and accessible as the previous album, and that’s a good thing. From the opener, “Land of Sunshine”, to the ending cover of the Midnight Cowboy theme, Faith No More challenges you to open your mind and your ears and peer deep into the psychological sewer that’s a part of many of us. Plus, along the way, we’ll make a couple of side trips into the absurd.

            Now, I’m certain a track-by-track analysis will not do this record justice. It’s better than that. However, I will touch on some highlights.

            The opening song, “Land of Sunshine”, lets you know right away that Angel Dust is a far different beast than its predecessor. It starts off pretty normal, then the vocals and lyrics kick in, and you’re taken from what at first seems to be an uplifting message on toward a wall of dripping sarcasm and laughter. It takes a bit to get the joke, but “Sunshine” is a scathing swipe at how most of us view our golden years, reducing it to what they’ll really be… untold years of being zombified by late-night infomercials until our brains turn to goo and we die. Happy, ain’t it?

            The third track of the record is “MidLife Crisis”, which has to be one of the most head stumping lead singles ever put out by a major label. Mike “Puffy” Bordin’s drum starts off with a slow, staccato polyrhythm that forms the spine of the song. The rest of the band join in, and things are kicking along just nicely. Mr. Patton’s vocals also fit into the song rather smoothly. It’s when you listen to what he is saying that things get interesting…

Go on and wring my neck
Like when a rag gets wet
A little discipline
For my pet genius
My head is like lettuce
Go on dig your thumbs in
I cannot stop giving
I’m thirty-something

Sense of security
Like pockets jingling
Midlife crisis…
Suck Ingenuity
Down through the family tree

You’re perfect yes it’s true
But without me you’re only you
Your menstruating heart
It ain’t bleedin’ enough for two

            Sounds like a bowl full of cherries, doesn’t it?

            Later, we get “Malpractice”, a piece of damaged art-metal driven by a military rhythm and a vocal performance teetering on the wrong side of insane…

The crowd roars
It’s deep and so unhealthy
The rest you know
I’ll feel the hands that felt me
Cold hands
Your hands
Cover my mouth
While I’m staring into bright lights


The crowd roars
The bloody hands are groping
The rest you know
Ten lovers violating
Reach back inside
Knuckle white
Ruffle white
The crowd roars
They ruined and repaired me
The rest you know
The hands removed the bad thing


            Now, with the examples I’ve given, you may be asking “Why is this album so good?” From what I’ve let go thus far, it’s a fair question.

            First, musically, the album is tight and varied. Each note, even the seemingly random ones, is perfectly placed, and played by a band who put poured their souls into art. You can HEAR the integrity in this record, and it’s that integrity that elevates Angel Dust onto a lofty pedestal, and makes even its disturbing moments good.

            So what about non-disturbing moments? Well, there aren’t a lot of them on this record, but there is beauty to be had, as witnessed by “A Small Victory”. It was the second single and is easily the best song on the record. “RV” and “Kindergarten” are character portraits unto themselves. “RV” puts you in the trailer with its drunken, loser protagonist, and makes you wonder if everyone has a chance to turn out like that. “Kindergarten” revisits the theme of childhood and how you can’t go back to the safety and security of that time in your life, even if you desperately want or need to.

            I know that those are scant reasons in the positive column, but just trust me. Go and listen to this record. Listen to it multiple times (at least four), and you will realize I’m not just talking out of my backside.

            THAT’S when you’ll realize just how good Angel Dust is. You will get it and you will like it, but you won’t be able to fully articulate WHY you like it. You’ll just know that you do.

GopherDave Grade: 9.3/10

Track Listing

01. Land of Sunshine
02. Caffeine
03. MidLife Crisis
04. RV
05. Smaller and Smaller
06. Everything’s Ruined
07. Malpractice
08. Kindergarten
09. Be Aggressive
10. A Small Victory
11. Crack Hitler
12. Jizzlobber
13. Cowboy

Lyrics Copyright © 1992 Big Thrilling Music/Vomit God Music ASCAP. Used without permission, but with no intention of infringement.

1 comment:

  1. I have no idea what you mean about overusing ellipses . . .

    I'll have to think about that . . .