Tuesday, 22 June 2010



This was huge fucking record which over the years has only maintained its intensity, even appreciated in stature.  Faith No More were already good when it arrived but now they were great.

Before this album Faith No More had been lumped into the funk rap metal movement most represented by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  As Mike Patton rapped his way through “Epic” in bright colours it was all too pleasing and amusing, satisfying on a surface level that rendered the band somewhat accessible and disposable.

In many ways Angel Dust represents something of a change of the guard within the band.  The metallic leanings of their previous three albums (seemingly favoured by Jim Martin) now made way for a denser, more adventurous sonic assault which appeared more Patton’s style.  This is just an incredible album where everything falls into place, where every experiment works and each deviation into new territory pays off.  At a time when grunge and industrial rock was storming the pages of Kerrang! the band expertly pounded such elements into their armoury while maintaining a keen balance of horror and humour in addition to holding onto genre departure altogether.

Now here comes the rub.  At the time I was good friends with the biggest Faith No More.  As I staggered through the final year of school I suddenly found myself hanging out with a guy called Glenn who adopted Faith No More as his chosen band and promptly proceeded to shove them down our throats both tainting and over killing the act not only for me but also Metal Dan who was hanging out with us at the time.  I owned the album on cassette but he had it on CD which meant he could safely blast it to a volume and frequency my stereo would not allow.  His copy of the album had “Easy” on it while mine didn’t.  Suddenly my appreciation of the band was inferior in everyway.  So be it.  And with that for years I steered clear of the band and this album long after my friend had exited my life.

I cannot recall the point I picked the band back up.  I can recall the day I finally bought the album on CD and that was on drunken Saturday night in Leicester Square after an AFC Wimbledon game when my friend Stevo and I snapped up various discs from the HMV Trocadero sale.

Now given a second life and listened to with a mature set of ears a new degree of appreciation seeped into my being.  Equally it was around this time while I was still doing Gringo Records that Phill the bass player from Reynolds and the guy recording all our acts at the time always expressed his appreciation and enjoyment of the band.  And Phill was a musically schooled person.  By this stage the band was no longer cool and releasing albums no one was really getting excited about but Angel Dust remained regarded a monster.

This is very much an album about juxtaposition.  On the front cover is a beautiful swan while on the back is a slaughtered cow.  Indeed the title can refer to both magic and the height of aggressive narcotic.

“Do you often sing and whistle just for fun?”

On that theme it opens with the pulsing/thumping “Land Of Sunshine” and positive promise of good times.  You then realise that this is a song about the elderly taking drugs and entertaining escapism (“fortune is smiling upon”).  Then it moves onto a series of questions from an L. Ron Hubbard Scientology audit/personality test.  On that note you would be forgiven for thinking you were subject to being brainwashed.  And as it descends into delirium Patton declares “here's how to order”.  Does the listener realise they’re listening to a religious record?

With that the record moves onto “Caffeine” which was apparently written by Patton during a sleep depravation experiment.  And the manner with which he barks his way through proceedings makes this quite the plausible prospect.  Opening with a sample of animal sounds (barking/howling) taken from the movie A Rose For Emily it is a tightly wound track featuring a fit from its singer.  A breather finally arrives when the band takes it down and Gould’s bass suddenly rumbles as creepy effects play out and Patton stands with accusation “but its so easy for you, there’s always one thing”.  This is Hitchcock and Hermann for the grunge era.  “Relax its just a phase, you’ll grow out of it”.  Who is this psycho we are listening to?

The first single on the album is “Midlife Crisis” with features some fine vocal gymnastics and staunch mood changes as the song refers to what it says on the tin apparently addressing Madonna and the overexposure she commanded back in the early nineties when she was teaching my generation about dirty kinky sex.  It contains the rousing line “I’m a perfectionist, my perfection is sham”.

With “RV” the band does something wonderful: it accidentally introduces its audience to Tom Waits.  From one perspective it is easily the best song of the album swaying in a first person narrative that is awesome representing awful.  Built around Bottum’s piano piece it’s a damaged celebration of slobbery (“my world, my TV, my food”) which eventually builds in hideous remorse in the chorus with the drunken gesture of “I hate you, talking to myself, everybody’s staring at me, I’m only breeding”.  As the track progresses the voices slowly becomes more agitated transferring disgust from its own reflection to the world before it.  Before long it becomes a cry for help finally ending in resignation and resolution with the line “I’ll just tell then what my daddy told me, you ain’t never gonna amount to nothing”.

“Smaller And Smaller” is another sailing moment.  Originally inhabiting the working title of “Arabic” it audibly builds in front of the listeners ears playing out like the Faith No More version of “Kashmir” interrupted by aboriginal chant samples and more Hitchcock screams until it eventually comes into port.

Lightening the mood the eventual fourth single lifted from the album “Everything’s Ruined” is an upbeat bounce perhaps the song here closest to previous work and The Real Thing.  With its easily memorised lines, crashing riff and huge chorus hook it’s a wonderful celebration of disaster.  Less optimistic is “Malpractice” which follows opening with drums that sound like rockets and playing thought sounds like all out warfare and carnage.  Displaying menace at its most massive “Malpractice” is relentless as Patton screams his way through in death metal fashion until a Kronos Quartet sample drops it prior to being promptly pummelled and dismissed by the tank like approach of FNM.  Its an act assuming casualty.

“Write it a hundred times.”

The second side begins with “Kindergarten” which feels almost calming in comparison to the manner in which the first side ended.  It is indeed a song that addresses maturity and childish things.  Then on that note we get “Be Aggressive” a song about oral sex with a cheerleader chorus spelling out the song title in Sesame Street style after Patton rants “I swallow, I swallow”.  I always found this song uncomfortable and slightly too cheesy for its own good.  Somehow a filler track was chosen as a single.

And on the subject of singles “A Small Victory” arrives as the most graceful and lush exhibit the band is ever likely to offer.  As Bottum fleshes out and carpets the sound Martin facilitates a chug which Patton characteristically pounces on proceedings surfing an oriental sounding base singing about the appreciation of occasional winning while accepting that losing bothers when it is part of the agenda (“it shouldn’t bother me, but it does”).

“They sum it all up in a sentence.”

The arrival of “Crack Hitler” then “Jizzlobber” sees the album ending in dense fashion akin to the final hammer blow that wins a war.  The positioning of two such solid songs late in the order reminds of how strong the b-side of Nevermind is.  “Crack Hitler” is a weird waltz detailing the delusion of second rate Scarface referring to himself as “Crack Hitler” while “Jizzlober” is just one hell of a rally with screams of “smiles! bruises!” ahead of all going incoherent and hostile.

With that album ends with perfection and the sumptuous outro of “Midnight Cowboy” which plays out like closing credits.  This was a bold song to attempt, not least by what was previously considered a funk rap metal act.  And with Bottum steering the ship dare I say they better the original.  Seldom has an album ended better.

And on that note along comes “Easy” on the re-release version of the album upsetting the apple cart.  The song stands out like a sore thumb.  As far as what comes before it, the track makes little sense but being a classy rendition of an old favourite it affectively serves as a unit shifting add-on.  There is no debating it being a very good version of a very solid song only the context in which it is positioned/offered here.  Oh well, whatever nevermind.

Angel Dust is as good as modern rock music gets, it is perfect.  It’s a positive experiment into expanse.  This should have been the future for guitar.

Thesaurus moment: brobdingnagian.

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