In today’s album review, we depart a bit from the usual punk rock — something a little different for you all.
Mr. Bungle: S/T (T) and California (M)
Mr. Bungle. A band from somewhere like Modesto? Or Stockton? Or some other Northern California town? They are from where? You have to remember, I really hated the stupid stage antic shit that some of these bands did. Lighting shit on fire — boring. Breaking things — boring. But wearing masks and drinking urine on stage? Well fuck, dude. That’s kinda new.
I will be honest with you. I didn’t like this for a long time. It was too, well, gimmicky type shit. It didn’t do anything for me and I didn’t like it. I don’t really want to sit around and wait for a kick. I wanted it now. But I listened to it again. Like three months later in the car of some burned out punk rocker. His car was decorated in skeletons and I was drinking a Pabst. He lectured me on how cool this band was.
So I listened.
Heading to the show, it’s kinda cool if you get to know the sound before you walk in the door. Hey, you gotta do it.
This was Mr. Bungle. Weird fast, slow like a circus on fire with all the clowns running out with bottles of gin. Bondage gear, clowns, and midgets. Like something out of a nightmare, they came at you.
This was sweat and beer and gin and…piss?
This shit was something when I first heard it, I thought was evil clown music. Fuck man, look at the inlay. It’s dead drunken dying clowns. What the fuck was that all about? From the second this starts, you feel as if you are in a video game hyped on speed playing the pinball game that would save the world. Cause you had a pocket of quarters. The fucking circus needed saving. Only you can save it. One more quarter. You can save it.
The album is loaded with samples. Things that make you think you heard it before… but from where? Samples I had to ask Michele about to find where they came from. Things I knew, but were all in a drug induced haze and couldn’t remember. “That was a pinball machine, right?”
All the samples were old video games and pinball machines. Every time you heard this album, you remembered the old times of playing those games, smoking a cigarette, looking over your shoulder to watch for the security guard as you made that last kill in the game you were playing. This album goes on the record for having the most video game and pinball machine samples of anything I have heard before.
I really can’t say this rocks because it’s just too out there to define. It is a great fucking album, don’t get me wrong, but the insanity of it just makes me pull back and wonder why.
Like people of the ’80s sit around and think of Frank Zappa. What they missed. How great he was. He was a genius they missed. Much like that, soon people will see what they missed in Mr. Bungle.
Plus they sing about the girls of porn. Which is kinda cool. (T)
Let me preface this by saying that I am a huge fan of anything Mike Patton, and my opinion on all things Patton related, be it Faith No More or Mr. Bungle or any of the myriad other bands/projects he has been a part of, is all a bit biased.
If I had to choose my favorite Patton related piece of work — and that’s really like asking a parent to choose a favorite child — I would have to go with California. Yeah, FNM’s Angel Dust forces some tough competition but hey, if you asked me today, I’d tell you I like my daughter better than my son (the mouth of a 13-year old boy can be exasperating). You caught me on a California kind of day.
This is way different from the previous Bungle efforts. It’s polished, it’s smooth, and it’s not as experimental or noisy or juvenile. You’ll get no “Squeeze Me, Macaroni” here. Instead, you get lyrics that have matured and musical composition that has flourished. Yeah, you still have a lot of that patented Bungle weirdness/noise, but California is like half mind fuck, where the band stars and shows off a plethora of amazing sounds and rhythms, and half lounge music, where Patton’s voice is a musical instrument itself. While some say this is Bungle’s most accessible album, that doesn’t mean much here. That’s like saying Mulholland Drive is David Lynch’s easiest to understand work. Just because it has more melody and more instrumentation and reaches a wider audience, doesn’t mean it’s going to be any less confusing to a non-Mr. Bungle fan.
Ok, so you are in this boat. Think Willy Wonka’s boat. That ride where everything is sweet and sugary and then turns into a speeding nightmare. That’s California. It is all bar room and cigar smoke and just when you are about to lean back in your chair and sip your bourbon, the ride gets noisy and disjointed and you hold onto your seat as it shakes.
Then it’s back to a slow ride and you’re suddenly thinking of red lipstick and black garters and maybe you’re going to finish up this song and then go masturbate to a magazine cover. But then the boat shakes you up again and it’s hands and arms inside the ride at all times. It shakes your brain and rattles your skull and “Golem II” and “Holy Filament” play and make you think, what kind of crackhead nightmare is this? You’re almost tempted to jump out of the boat, but something about the calliope-like sound makes you hang on, even if the sound is giving you flashbacks to some tenth grade mescaline trip at an amusement park.
Then you see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the boat is bumping its way over there with the lyrics What would they say/If you went up in smoke?/If I dug you up/And made soup of your bones? playing in your ear and you think, damn this has been one crazy ride. Was it fun? Was it scary? A little of both? Maybe I should ride it again and be sure. And you get back on the boat and you notice little things about the ride you didn’t notice the first time and each subsequent turn on the boat makes you appreciate the ride more fully, makes you see all the noises and imagery and soft sounds and full range of emotions come together to make one pretty surreal, yet fulfilling, experience. (M)