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A Bi-Polar, Genre-bending, Heavy Metal Circus - 95%

Superchard, September 1st, 2018

Despite being his first band as early as his high school years, Mike Patton's Mr. Bungle was put on the back-burner for a full length studio album playing second fiddle to his much more well-known band he stepped into to replace Chuck Mosley on vocals, Faith No More. Personally, i didn't like either of these bands when I first heard them, but that's the funny thing about ALL of Mike Patton's bands. I always end up going from hating them in the very beginning, finding that there was some unique appeal to the music that would draw me back in and slowly just getting used to it to the point I would just obsess over it. This happened for me with Faith No More, and then it happened with Mr. Bungle. Not much later it happened again with Fantomas and Tomahawk. Even after that, I found myself getting digging into his oddball pop and hip hop efforts with Peeping Tom and The X-ecutioners.

Mr. Bungle's debut was the one that really drew me in, probably because at the time I was a big fan of Mike Patton's debut with Faith No More. It doesn't sound much like The Real Thing, but at least Mike Patton was singing in the same vocal style before he went on to experiment with his voice on releases like Angel Dust and Disco Volante. It's worth mentioning; however, that Mr. Bugnle's earlier demo recordings did feature a much more aggressive sounding Patton, but I, just as I'm willing to bet most other metal fans tend to go straight for the jugular with a band's full length releases first, and if I like them enough only then start to explore the back catalogue. So I'd say that Mr. Bungle was a good place for me personally to start my journey into their music even if I didn't really like it right off the bat.

I just thought the album was plain silly and couldn't take it seriously with songs like "Carousel". I had much the same reaction to it as I did with Faith No More's "Epic". It was like a mixture of ska, evil carnival music and heavy metal. It was well over my head at the age of fourteen and at that age I was more into bands like Voivod, Razor and Kreator. In other words, I liked my metal loud, pissed off and assertive, not coming off as a band that's just playing music as if it were some kind of joke. I was impressed by it though. I was impressed by every member's contribution to the band. Trey Spruance was able to play the guitar in every way imaginable and I'd argue he was the best guitarist Faith No More ever had, although perhaps never surpassed Jim Martin's contributions to a Faith No More record, speaking solely on the topic of Faith No More's outputs.

If there was any gateway song on this album for me, it was "My Ass is on Fire" which was pretty metal all the way through, and despite its immature name was a serious affair in contrast to the rest of the album. It also had a more tangible approach to songwriting that made it feel more 'normal' than songs like "Egg" which would completely deconstruct itself half-way through. Then that short bridge came along with Mike Patton "You knew all along, GOD DAMNIT" before letting out the craziest scream I'd ever heard him commit to tape at that point... "Look at you NOOOOOOWWWWW" in all of its distorted mic glory. This moment converted me, but as you'd expect it wasn't a smooth transition that just happened overnight after hearing this one display of pseudo-thrash mixed with demented circus music, but had it not been for this song and the ridiculously catchy but goofy chorus to "Carousel", which Mike doesn't even have lyrics for, he just kind of throws his voice all over the place in an obtuse yet melodic fashion that couldn't have been done if there were lyrics. This was my introduction to Mr. Bungle, and it made Faith No More a much easier listen by comparison.

"Love is a Fist" was another one that really helped me get into Mr. Bungle. A very bizarre take on the crossover thrash metal over the era that was being popularized by bands like Suicidal Tendencies. Apart from "My Ass is on Fire" and "Love is a Fist", everything else was more or less a challenge for me, but as I kept exposing myself to it, it began to sink in to me that sometimes not taking a musical project so seriously can really turn out for the better for the music. It allows the artist to come across in a more genuine and honest manner. I imagine what "Love is a Fist" would sound like if Mike Patton didn't have the audacity to be himself and instead tried to emulate the vocals of whoever else he thought was doing a great job as a thrash metal vocalist, Tom Araya for example. It would have come across as bizarre still thanks to the band's wacky songwriting, but Mike Patton kind of gives the album a cartoon quality to it, fitting as he would later release Suspended Animation with Fantomas. His mumbling vocals on "Dead Goon" give the listener the impression that he's not taking this seriously and being obnoxious, but then he sings properly and because of this delicate dance between what a listener does and probably doesn't want to hear, I think many can agree that Mike Patton is a singer like none other.

I don't come back to this album as often as the band's last release, California, but of the three Mr. Bungle albums, this is probably the best for someone that's strictly looking for heavy metal. California was a full blown avant-garde album where as Disco Volante was still metal, just wildly inaccessible for the average Joe. Meanwhile this album keeps things fairly streamlined by comparison despite its genre bending, the acquired taste for Patton's vocals, and band's tendency to go full blown psychotic in the middle of songs that have all the characteristics of 'songs'. To this day, the only song I don't much care for is the first track, "Quote Unquote" which just stays on the same beaten path a little too long for my liking with its bouncing clown music. There's some neat jazzy divergences, but the overall basis the song is founded on I don't much care for.

They'd go on to prove that there are still, in fact many, many barriers to break down and that music can get much more unorthodox than this. If you think songs like "Stubb (a Dub)" are off their rocker, at least they are comprised in a way to make them pleasant to listen to for someone to be challenged by it but still see something in it and come back to it again and again as I did. It's a back and forth wild ride between the hilarious and gravely serious as well as the normal and the psychotic. Similar to the euphoria vs the unrelenting fear one may experience while on wicked psychedelics. It's comparable to the good clown/evil clown trope you see all the time in media, for example the wrestler Doink the Clown. or The Joker. Maybe it's going to smash your head with a cartoonishly giant mallet or maybe it's just going to make a disturbing face at you until you are visibly uncomfortable and proceed to just settle with popping your balloon and laugh maniacally. There is just no in-between with Mr. Bungle.

Superchard gets super hard for:
My Ass is on Fire
Sqeeze Me Macaroni