Faith No More’s origins go right back to 1979, when the rhythm section of Mike Bordin and Billy Gould formed a band together. By 1982 keyboard player Roddy Bottum joined and they had became Faith No More – a young Courtney Love was among their early members. By 1988 they had released two albums but had fired vocalist Chuck Mosley, replacing him with 19 year old Mike Patton.
Patton’s extravagant vocals and memorable lyrics fuelled 1989’s The Real Thing and the accompanying hit ‘Epic’. Faith No More followed up with 1992’s heavier Angel Dust and 1995’s King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime. 1997’s Album of the Year indicated a band that was running out of ideas, and they split up, although they’ve since toured and released a new album (2015’s Sol Invictus). Mike Patton has also enjoyed a busy career outside of Faith No More, with Mr Bungle, The Fantomas, and Tomahawk.
Considering my ambivalence to other bands from the turn of the 1990s that inhabited the space between rock, rap, and funk, it’s surprising that I enjoy Faith No More at all. But despite a lack of instrumental firepower compared to bands like Rage Against the Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I find Faith No More a much more interesting band; they’re more diverse, Bottum’s keyboards give them a more detailed sound, and Patton is a much more interesting front man and lyricists. They’re also credited with inspiring the nu-metal genre, and again Faith No More are like men among boys; an accomplished, interesting band in a genre that often feels adolescent.
I’ve only covered their four albums from 1989-1997 – the albums that represent Mike Patton’s initial tenure in the band. I am planning to cover Mike Patton’s Mr. Bungle before I cover further Faith No More albums.
Faith No More Album Reviews
The Real Thing
Faith No More’s first album with Mike Patton on vocals broke them into the mainstream. Patton was only 20 at the time of recording The Real Thing, and his voice is notably different on subsequent releases – his voice would drop an entire octave before Angel Dust. The Real Thing is notable for its healthy handful of rock anthems – in particular the hit ‘Epic’, which mixed rapped verses with an intense chorus, but other songs like the keyboard driven ‘From Out Of Nowhere’ and ‘Falling To Pieces’ could have also launched Faith No More into the mainstream.
Korn’s Jonathan Davis was one of many aspiring musicians inspired by The Real Thing, saying “It showed everybody you could do heavy music and not be “metal”.” Faith No More’s style on The Real Thingcan loosely be described as funk metal, but the album covers a lot of bases, from accessible poppy hits like the opening duo of ‘From Out Of Nowhere’ and ‘Epic’, to more intense fare like ‘Surprise! You’re Dead!’. There’s also the eastern flavoured instrumental ‘Woodpecker From Mars’ and a fun Black Sabbath cover ‘War Pigs’. Subsequent Faith No More albums would become even more eclectic and less hooky, which makes The Real Thing an ideal starting point in the band’s discography.
With Patton’s voice not fully developed, The Real Thing is more adolescent-oriented than Faith No More’s subsequent albums, but there’s plenty of substance here too.
The Real Thing was a strong album, but it sounded like a product of its era – a slice of adolescent funk rock from 1989. Angel Dust is less accessible – it’s full of dense guitar riffs from Jim Martin, and guttural vocals and disturbed lyrics from Mike Patton. If you think about it, you could make an argument that it’s one of the strangest albums to ever make the top ten; it takes a few listens to sink in properly, and it’s filled with disturbing lyrics.. But it’s the group’s masterpiece and has dated more gracefully – it doesn’t have the pop smarts of The Real Thing, but it’s filled with personality and creativity
A lot of Angel Dust is intense – the two opening tracks ‘Land of Sunshine’ and ‘Caffeine’ are taut and abrasive, as is the closer ‘Jizzlobber’. There are moments of lightness – ‘A Small Victory’ and ‘Kindergarten’ both soar effortlessly. But overall the easy listening cover of ‘Midnight Cowboy’ that closes the original album, and the faithful version of The Commodores’ ‘Easy’ that’s appended to later versions of the album, feel vital to its flow.
Jim Martin left Faith No More after Angel Dust, and the group would trade intensity for eclecticism on King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime.
King For A Day… Fool For A Lifetime
Jim Martin left Faith No More after Angel Dust, pursuing a career in championship pumpkin growing. He was replaced by Trey Spruance, from Mike Patton’s side-project Mr. Bungle. King For A Day also had little input from Roddy Bottum, the keyboardist struggling with the recent deaths of his father and of Kurt Cobain, and his synth sounds are largely absent.
The resulting album is the most eclectic in Faith No More’s discography, and possibly in anyone’s discography, putting abrasive material like ‘Cuckoo For Caca’ and ‘Ugly in the Morning’ against smooth pieces like ‘Caralho Voador’ and ‘Evidence’. The smooth lounge jazz of ‘Evidence’ is perhaps the album’s most unexpected departure, but King For A Day covers a lot of ground. Straight-forward rockers like ‘Ricochet’ and ‘Digging The Grave’ are different from the funk metal that populated Faith No More’s previous albums, while the title track ventures close to progressive rock.
If Angel Dust was one of the weirdest, most intense albums to reach mainstream popularity, King For A Day.. Fool For A Lifetime is one of the most diverse.
Album of the Year
Between King For A Day… and Album of the Year Faith No More went through another couple of guitarists – Trey Spruance was replaced by Dean Menta for touring, but after the group struggled with writing block, he was replaced by Jon Hudson. Album of the Year is a tired sounding record, with slow tempos and little of the manic energy of the group’s previous albums. Unlike previous records, the best songs are the singles, and there’s little of note after the most famous songs.
The singles ‘Last Cup of Sorrow’ and ‘Ashes To Ashes’ use Mike Patton’s huge voice for climactic choruses, against a tense guitar riff. ‘Stripsearch’ is a pretty piece of lounge-flavoured electronica, while ‘She Loves Me Not’ is pretty with its acoustic arrangement centered around Roddy Bottum’s piano.
Album of the Year does feel like this always interesting band were running short of inspiration, and it’s not surprising that it was Faith No More’s final album until 2015’s Sol Invictus.
“I think Anthony [Kiedis], deep down, feels like I’m a better dancer than he is. I think I shake my booty just a little bit fresher than he does.” – Mike Patton, 2001.
Ten Favourite Faith No More Songs
From Out Of Nowhere
A Small Victory
One Last Cup Of Sorrow