Faith No More Angel Dust
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Mike Patton consistently stated that the stories he told on Angel Dust had little or nothing to do with him. In some ways that might be relieving (picturing Patton as the suave mastermind dealer in “Crack Hitler,” for one, is extremely unnerving to say the least), but instead of detracting from the personal feel of the record, Angel Dust instead gains a new sense of life. I always liked imagining Patton pulled up in his Honda at a diner in the middle of San Francisco, watching people run by in their everyday lives as he plotted the ideas for such narratives as “RV” and “Everything’s Ruined.” He may not sing the praises of giving men head in his normal life (check “Be Aggressive”), but when he takes the microphone his masterful storytelling takes front seat and for three minutes and forty-one seconds you’re pretty damn sure that Patton is homosexual. In less graphic terms, Faith No More’s frontman is a masterful storyteller, and each song on Angel Dust unwinds like a chapter, each as enthralling as the next. But putting it that way makes it sound all too neat. After the captivating (if slightly familiar) funk-metal attack of pseudo-debut The Real Thing, a story so reiterated that it’s become trite some eighteen years later began to unfurl. Patton’s avant-garde influences and distaste for mainstream success began to creep into Faith No More’s sound, and the results were at the very least surprising and at their most fully developed, brilliant. Chaos is often preferred to routine as numbers like the death metal-esque “Jizzlobber” prove. The melodies are viciously two-sided, often ranging from the tranquil and inviting to the harsh and brutal, sometimes in the course of a single song. Perhaps the bridge of “Malpractice” represents this most efficiently, as the song’s death march turmoil suddenly gives way to soft crooning and twinkling bells. Or maybe the disparity is best displayed when the aforementioned fierceness of “Jizzlobber” dissolves into a peaceful cover of the theme from Midnight Cowboy. In truth, keyboardist Roddy Bottum’s explanation of the album’s title puts it best--- “it's a really beautiful name for a really hideous drug and that should make people think.” In simpler terms, “balancing the beautiful with the sick.” If the dynamic shifts are the backbone of the album, Patton’s previously mentioned roleplaying is the heart and soul. Through somewhat nonsensical and vague lyricism, he successfully portrays his characters in ways that are both amusing (the super-serious delivery on “Kindergarten” is a highlight) and disturbing (“Malpractice” is nightmare-inducingly evil). His range is his most widely praised asset, but the sheer variety in his vocal delivery is astounding. From tribal chanting to screeching, Patton’s tortured and gritty performance throughout the course of the record is truly nothing short of phenomenal. The rest of the band is impressively up to par as well--- the rhythm section combo of Billy Gould and Mike Bordin are both at the top of their game on Angel Dust, sparking the record with their mastery of a flurry of genres. Gould is at his best providing the funk, most notably the opening bassline to “Land of Sunshine” in which Patton, in perfect tongue-in-cheek form, welcomes the listener to the record as he chastises an invisible figure with every maniacal laugh. Bordin completes the duo impressively, his shining moment the classic opening seconds of single “Midlife Crisis.” Bottum plays a more mysterious (if not most crucial) role in the quintet, as his shimmering chords and intros often add a haunting dimension to the band’s sound. To say it’s the simplest things that make Angel Dust what it is would be tremendously misleading. It’s the sheer amount of ground Faith No More covers on the album--- from genre to lyrical content to style to dynamics--- and the quality of every such path the band takes. Never once in Patton’s arsenal of tricks is his delivery forced, and never once does the band cease to be tasteful. As ugly as it is beautiful and as twisted as it is captivating, only one aspect of the record can be put simply--- few albums provide a listening experience as unique and enthralling as Angel Dust.