Album Reviews

Faith No More: The Real Thing/Angel Dust (Rhino)

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Faith No More
The Real Thing/Angel Dust  (Deluxe Editions)
Rhino

When Faith No More began working on its third album, it was a band in crisis. They’d had a minor hit with “We Care A Lot,” which garnered them some MTV play on 120 Minutes. However, the band had tired of vocalist Chuck Mosley, but they decided to carry on without him. Up until then, they specialized in the funk-punk hybrid taking place in California at the time. With Mosley out, they hired Mr. Bungle’s weirdo genius, Mike Patton, and within a very short time, they’d written their first album, The Real Thing. It would be a hit.

This iteration of Faith No More was metal. It was thanks to the funky surprise hit “Epic” and its video, showing leader Mike Patton dancing around with the same mannerisms as a demented marionette, yelling over metal guitars and a slap-bass that was funk at its best. It also seemed that he wasn’t singing, he was rapping. It was an MTV sensation, but I remained unconvinced; much changed when I saw them open on the ginormous Metallica/ Guns ’n” Roses tour, where their sound came alive—though I still never quite got into the vibe of The Real Thing. Aside from “Zombie Eaters,” a bizarre, beautiful, erm, epic, their cover of “War Pigs,” and the album closing “Edge of the World,” I found most of the album to be standard funk-rock/metal that, while not bad, reminded me of why I liked Fishbone. Two decades on, I must admit, I still feel that way. The bonus material on disc two, while nice, isn’t particularly revelatory, though “Sweet Emotion” (which is not the Aerosmith song) probably should have been on the album, while “The  Grade,” a straightforward country hoedown, is interesting and, again, probably should have made the final cut.

Angel Dust, however, changed things. It was a lot weirder. The metal edges were gone, the funk toned down, and it was just a different beast, edging towards that unclassifiable amalgam that Patton has specialized in for the last two decades. The Real Thing always felt too…earnest. Understandable, as they were coming into their own after losing founding visionary Chuck. Angel Dust had none of that; it was the sound of a band growing nicely into its skin. Furthermore, it was fun. The weird cabaret of “RV,” the cheerleaders on “Be Aggressive,” the one-two sucker-punch of “Crack Hitler” and “Jizzlobber” being followed by a dead-on perfect version of Ferrante & Teischer’s “Midnight Cowboy”—how could one not be intrigued by these weirdos? To my ears, aside from the occasional slap bass, it didn’t even really sound like the same band.

Furthermore, the second disc of this Angel Dust reissue is an embarrassment of riches, even if much of it is familiar to fans. Two live sets—one from Munich, the other from (of all places) DeKalb, Illinois—bring the songs to life in a way a studio recording just couldn’t. Then there are the B-sides—several of which were included on their excellent EP, Songs To Make Love To. Their take on Commodores’ “Easy” is surprisingly faithful, while their jazzy version of the Dead Kennedys’ “Let’s Lynch the Landlord,” from the Alternative Tentacles tribute comp, Virus 100, remains a classic. Remixes of “A Small Victory” and “MidLife Crisis” expand already great songs into something even more interesting, while “The World Is Yours,” the sole studio outtake, is excellent as well.

These two deluxe reissues demonstrate a band mutating before your eyes. While The Real Thing might not resonate much with me—it tends to sound a bit dated—Angel Dust is the sound of a band becoming something else entirely, an artistic force to be reckoned with, and is easily one of Mike Patton’s first creative masterpieces, a classic album that has only sweetened with age. 

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