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"Thanks, Mom!" - 90%

almightyjoey, November 26th, 2009

Mr. Bungle, as you'll have gathered, are a weird band. They explored entire genres of music within one track, and then changed completely for the next one. Bands like Slipknot and Incubus actually tried to copy their sound on their earliest albums (the latter actually admits it in the liner notes of their 1995 'Fungus Amongus' album). While they're valiant efforts, nothing comes close to the talent or ability of the musicians on this album.

This record came out of nowhere. Early-nineties, when grunge and noise rock were popular, and nothing that new was happening, save for the death of glam. Nothing, at the time, was like this record. The only thing I can think of is John Zorn's Naked City album, but since he both produced and played a lot of saxophone on this album, it doesn't feel right to call the two albums different entities. That's not to say this is a jazz record- not by any stretch of the imagination- but it is explored. You already knew that from other reviews, though. It saves repeating, though. They also experiment in noise, surf, funk, avant-garde, thrash metal, Kecak, and pretty much excusively on this album, carnival music.

That's right, while this album isn't necessarily a concept album, it certainly feels like one. While each song is drastically different in sound, the whole album feels like one solid body, whether in theme, lyrics, sound or placement on the album. Lyrically, clowns are involved a lot (even on the one song they aren't mentioned, they featured in the banned music video, dangling from meat hooks). Musically, the carnival theme is explored drastically, too. From the seemingly weathered keyboards in Dead Goon, to the mad laughter and guitar chords in Carousel to the arcade and game show sound effects throughout the album. Even if it was a bad album, it's respectable to be able to make songs sound so different and feel so unified. But the thing's not a bad album. Not at all.

It's certainly a grower, though. As a fan of Mike Patton and Trey Spruance, it makes me ashamed to say that I only actually heard this album last year. It taken me until a few months later to genuinely like. And, as of the start of this month, I can call it one of my favourite albums. When I first heard it, I was obviously more taken with the more 'normal' songs on the album, like Carousel and My Ass Is On Fire (but you can tell from the title that it's hardly "normal" at all), but I wasn't sure if I liked the musical vomiting and impressions of the movie Blue Velvet on the respective tracks. I think once those clicked, the whole album did.

With that said, though, there's still a lot to get into from there. For example, a lot of the tracks are a lot longer than they actually seem on the track listing. For example, Stubb (A Dub) is on for 7 minutes plus, but about 5 minutes of that is an actual song, while the remainder is pretty much taken up by film samples and sound effects. It certainly helps the atmosphere of the album as a whole, but it's not something you'd want to listen to on your mp3 player as a stand-alone track.

Once you understand it, though, it's utterly fantastic. The talent on this album is incredible. The guitar chords on the beginning of Carousel by Trey Spruance, the vocals and keyboards on Dead Goon, the drums on My Ass Is On Fire, The bass on The Girls Of Porn, the brass on Squeeze Me's all utterly amazing. What I think, in reflection, my favourite thing about this album is how light-hearted and freaky this album can get, often at the same time. Egg is a playful song that ends in complete musical chaos and Carousel is a song that pretty much sums up the warm, innocent feeling a child gets at a funfair, but once the narrator vomits, he is laughed at by a chorus of distorted clowns. And (I apologise for bringing it up so often, it's just THAT amazing), on Dead Goon, the whole song tells the story from the viewpoint of an asphyxiophile clown that escapes mockery from his peers by choking himself, but accidentally hangs himself one night and dies. Only Mr. Bungle could incorporate poppy choruses with clean vocals into a song that dark.

In summary, I like to think of the album as that weird kid you knew in school. You know the one. The kid that sat at the back of the class, with not too many friends. The one that sat alone and made weird noises to himself. This is like that. It doesn't really care what you think of it, but you can tell it has fun, whatever you think of it. games. And, once you understand the weird kid, it probably ends up being a really cool guy, and a close friend.