From defecating in hand-dryers to drinking piss from his Doc Martens, ex-[a]Faith No More[/a] vocalist Mike Patton always cheerfully trampled upon social taboos. [a]Mr. Bungle[/a], his first band, have always been Patton‘s truest, sickest love, the shape of their musical peg conversely dependent upon whatever hole they wished to get stuck in. However, their third album, ‘California’, is an altogether slicker, smoother kink.
This record skips from genre to genre with such dizzying haste, it’s hard to take it as anything other than some arch musicologist’s jape – especially the ridiculous ‘Ars Moriendi’ (mixing Arabian skirmishes with blitzing metallic riffage and note-perfect lift muzak) or ‘Golem II’, penned by guitarist Trey Spruance (famed for being too [I]evil [/I]to remain in Faith No More!), lurching madly every ten seconds like some urchin maxed out on sugary candies.
The true heart of [a]Mr. Bungle[/a] can be better heard, however, in their more subtly twisted acts of musical terrorism. Opener ‘Sweet Charity’ is an overblown ballad recalling FNM’s liquor-soaked Bacharach covers. ‘The Air Conditioned Nightmare’ is a sick and wrong vision of The Beach Boys‘ most luscious moments, all suffocating strings and sentimentalism, while ‘Vanity Fair’ deals in hysterical cyber doo-wop. These are only slightly exaggerated parodies, like Beck might cook up on a baaaaad day.
Such humour is, of course, a torturously acquired taste, but ‘California’ is an exhilarating release from ‘4 Real’ culture, championing its wit above integrity. Administer sparingly.