Mike Patton, for quite awhile has been one of my favorite musicians, period. Right after High school I became a Faith No More fan, and from then on, I slowly discussed his myriad side projects. Chief among them was the vastly off the wall, avant garde stylings of Mr. Bungle. Like many of his bands, quite a few of the other band members were pretty well known in strange circles, but Mr. Bungle was a different beast altogether. Often the albums had been exercises in randomness. Not in the Fantomas chaotic way, but in the you never knew what style was coming next way. Today another entry in the Albums of My Life series, the 1999 classic, “California.”
From the onset of the first track, “Sweet Charity” it's a very soothing sound. One of the best things about Patton is his ability to use his voice in a multitude of ways. It can cool, crisp, or angry and persistent. Rarely do you get a vocalist as good at various things, but with Patton it's never not there. During the first track, which has beach vibes that feel lifted straight from 1950's cheesy sun drenched romantic comedy, you feel totally at peace with the pace. Honestly, it's a great song for soaking up rays until a blue sky while you enjoy any choice of beverage.
No two songs on the album sound anything alike. “None of them Knew They were Robots” hits like bat out of hell, and it's at this point where I can realistically say this album would go perfect if synced up with “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” It's real treat of a record, and even more bizarrely, was released by Warner Brothers. This album would NEVER get released on that label these days. It just wouldn't happen. It's kinda sad actually.
During the tour to support this album, Mr. Bungle found themselves on the Sno-Core tour, alongside System of a Down and Incubus. Now I get how that would work, but for random fans of all bands included it must have been slightly funny and odd.
Song three, otherwise known as “Retrovertigo,” is easily my favorite song by the band. From the heart, it's a perfect all around sound. The gentle vocals of Patton make me think of glimmers of sun coming through clouds, and the acoustic guitar strumming is poignant and gorgeous. The chorus is another gem. “Now I'm finding Truth is a Ruin,” has always made me think of a periless journey through the mountains, only to discover whatever you were looking is a total rouse. The break open of the song though, is fabulous, and it's the crash of the song where the emotions truly come out for all to see. The effect they utilize on Patton's voice also plays the role of making it seem like a dream is slipping away, which I really like. Seriously though, one of the top ten songs he's ever been involved in, at least in my opinion.
“The Air-Conditioned Nightmare” comes next, and is just as random and strange as all the other songs. It goes from bongo dancing, to something reminiscent of an 60's go go routine, and in no time it's heavy as fuck, with all cylinders going full blast, The drumming by Danny Heifetz really drives that section home, and all around the album he's able to do exactly what needs to done to keep the music at an even keel, no matter where they might be heading next.
That's one of the things I most like about this band. It would be so hard for them get to where they did now I think, not because of the skill set, but because of how shitty the music industry and major labels are these days. Of course, Mike Patton has run Ipecac records for awhile, so they would likely be on that label, but it's a small imprint, and although it has many amazing artists, it simply doesn't compare of the Warner Brothers in the time that this record was made.
“Pink Cigarette” is textually, a gorgeous love song. It's always made me think of a Italian love song if only it was sang in English. From there, they tracks get weirder, if that was possible. “Golem II- The Bionic Vapour Boy” finds us at a jolly albeit slightly creepy meeting point, while the opening of “The Holy Filament” sounds a like cross between something in “Rosemary's Baby” and a weird Samurai film set in the future. I'm aware this might make little sense, but that's what I love about this band so much. Much of it can be left to interpretation, and many of the songs have alternating themes, styles, and arrangements. It's one of the most eye opening albums I've ever heard, and even to this day, it's always struck a cord in my odd mind.
The second to last song, “Vanity Fair,” is a doo-wop song straight from Mo Town, and it's the best representation of a love song on the record. This is the band in their black and white tuxedo best, and It makes me want to dress to the nine's and take my lady dancing underneath a darkly lit room and soak the night in.
“Goodbye Sober Day” meets us at the conclusion of the strange, but mildly brief excursion. It's another in a the line of weird tracks, but it's pretty awesome. Much of the song makes you feel like you're in an old school, campy as fuck horror film, and the technicolor vibe is creeping up on the couple trying to get through a haunted maze of trouble.
In conclusion, the album, while widely diverse, never feels like different musicians or bands, which ultimately works. It all sounds like the same group of guys, which makes you understand that this is a band that could do anything they wanted. It's one of the wildest albums I've ever heard, but it's still a solid gold record, and one that I'm grateful to have discovered.
Thanks for Reading, See you on Friday where I'll be posting the TOP TWENTY ALBUMS OF 2014 LIST, and mentioning some of the things we'll be discussing when I return in 2015. See you Friday!!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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