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It's A Madhouse!! - 100%

elfo19, May 1st, 2009

Listening to this debut album by Mr. Bungle really makes the listener feel like he or she is either in a madhouse, a possesed circus, or an insane asylum. No music I have ever heard before is more demented and challenging than this, except for maybe Mr. Bungle's second album.

Right from the beginning it is a rush of madness. The album begins with the sound of glass shattering before we are hit with one of the most menacing riffs to ever grace a compact disc. Throughout the album's opener, "Quote Unquote" the listener is confronted with screeching saxophones, thrashing guitars, peculiar sound effects, radical tempo changes, and, of course, a wide array of strange noises that vocalist Mike Patton makes. The song sets the pace for the album, and while one thinks it could not get any weirder than this opening track, it does. One of the strangest songs, "Stubb (A Dub)", features lyrics like, "cause you're a fuckin dog", and "If you can here me, then throw up." While these lines sound very childish and foolish written down, I can assure you they sound much better when paired with the musical cacophony this album presents.

To actually attempt to describe the music on this disc is difficult, but a task I'm willing to take on. One of the major focuses of the album is the hundreds upon hundreds of tempo changes within every song. Along with these tempo changes there are also style changes, which means that a song can go from being a slow funk to raging death metal in the blink of an eye. The music is so chaotic and challenging it is occasionally stressful for the listener.

But one thing I can reccomend is to not give up on this disc. The first several listens will be difficult, but the album gets much better, Once you get to the point where you've listened to it enough, the tempo and style changes seem to fit, the chaos becomes more contained, and the musical experience becomes magical. Each song is performed with such precision, such musical technique it becomes amazing after repeated listens.

Which brings me to the band. This is one skilled bunch of musicans. No typical band could play this music. It is so intricate, so complicated, it would require technique and musical skill beyond most normal people. The ability to pull off the style changes of this disc (which in case I haven't mentioned it yet occur at least once a minute, and often every ten seconds or so) must be extremely difficult. So, I give this band major credit, as not only have they written this beautifully complex music, but they are actually able to play it. Especially the drummer deserves credit as he plays through this disc with such intensity and keeping to the disjointed, barely rhythmic structures, perfectly, literally holding the music together and preventing it from turning into a mess of dissonance.

But occasionally the band actually wants to the music to turn into a mess of dissonance, which is precisely the beauty of it. The end of "My Ass Is On Fire" has the band playing each of their instruments as loud as they possibly can as Patton shrieks over the spastic wall of sound. When you think it can't get any louder, or any crazier, it does just that. It builds and builds until it all disappears at once, leaving with only silence and a single voice speaking the words, "Help me, I'm lost."

I don't know about you, but this kind of stuff really gets me excited. It's artsy and avant-garde, but at the same time completely musical, which is something Patton rarely achieves with his other side projects. It's breathtaking and fabulous and like nothing else.

I'd try to describe the actual music more, but it really is something you just have to experience yourself. Even if you don't really like the music, you have to admit it is unique, and even if you don't want to say so, it is worth a listen, and many more. As I said before, it gets better, and better, and better. Each time I listen to it I pick out something different. There is a point where the music is mass chaos with a repeating guitar riff layered with layers of static and clashing cymbals, which all stops for a moment just so Mike Patton can softly say, "Boo!", something I didn't pick up until probably my tenth listen.

So, give this disc a shot, because if you are open-minded when it comes to music then it will grow on you, and the little nuances of it will start to stick into your brain and make the music get increasingly more entertaining. To sum it all up in a single sentence: Mr. Bungle's debut is a challenging, but rewarding musical experience which breaks new ground, and forces the listener to pay attention to the music unlike ever before. This disc is a masterpiece of modern avant-garde, and music in general.