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Album of the Year

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(68 Reviews)

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  • 8 years after, looking at this album and the career of Faith No More in general still causes me to get a little choked up. I was devastated at that press conference when Billy announced they were splitting. Faith No More was easily one of the top 2 or 3 best bands of the 90’s, and it was sad to see them go. Enough weeping, however, let’s get into the review.

    This album as a whole has a very plodding, exhausted feel to it. One can ascertain the general feeling that these guys are sick of each other (Mike Patton didn’t even rehearse with the band, instead turning in his vocal tracks by mail while working on Mr. Bungle’s spectacular 1999 release California) and that they know this is the last straw. The songs still stand up on their own, for the most part, and it is still light years more coherent and cohesive than the lackluster 1994 release King For A Day, Fool For a Lifetime. The whole album lends a feeling of distance, of space, a stunning shift from their previous walls-of-sound performances Angel Dust and The Real Thing. Jon Hudson’s guitar work is mediocre, yet there are moments (Ashes to Ashes being the most prominent) where his simplistic efforts really enhance, rather than detract, from the material. For a hardcore FNM fan, this is nowhere near their finest material, but for the rest of the industry, it stands head and shoulders above what was available at the time, and in fact still stands taller than most of the material released in the 8 years following.

    The album begins with a bone-jarring syncopated semi-trash number, Collision. While fully loaded with raw power, the overall emotive value of this piece wears off quickly once the initial headbanging is over. No notable lyric here, it’s a very sparse hint at a book and movie done a short time before. Stripsearch is a powerful bounceback, both lyrically and musically. Flowing, ethereal textures and incredibly emotive vocal passages, with lines such as “In these days – I’m breathing stone – crying stone – I’ll win this race – I’ll leave alone – arrive alone” place this piece among the best this band has ever produced. The radio-ready “Last Cup of Sorrow” is a flop. Dead, lifeless, unimaginative, boring – frankly I was shocked such a great band could produce such a piece of crap, and then have the gall to release it as a single over some of the real gems on this record. Chalk that one up to the industry pushing a band to re-write its big hit over and over again, as if forcing the same sound down people’s throats repeatedly will make them love you. “Naked in Front of the Computer” brings back the dark humour that has been such a beloved component of this band’s sound for years. Jon’s opening riff is lackluster, but the song ignores it and moves on into a frantic, aggressive underpinning for some very tasty lyrical gems such as “In how many ways – and words – can you say nothing – millions of ways – and words – to say nothing” – all a sarcastic stab at the internet revolution and its evolving into what is essentially a forum for dolts such as myself to foam at the mouth to whoever will listen. “Helpless” is a spectacular quasi-ballad piece with dreamy synth passages, although again weighed down by Hudson’s lack of imagination and skill. Quips like “For every wish, I wonder why – Why all I want is something beautiful – A place to rest” toss the listener rather casually into serious depression, while the eerie whistling and other sound effects hint that the band is laughing at your pain all along. “Mouth to Mouth” brings more tongue-in-cheek silliness and a brilliant hook “I can dress up the dead man – but I can’t bring him back to life.” Too bad they didn’t drop this surefire hit on the general public. “Ashes to Ashes” is definitely another T-10 alltime FNM piece. Patton’s soaring vocals interplay beautifully with Roddy’s boards, and Hudson’s 14 note guitar solo actually makes for a perfect interlude between segments. The hook is stellar – “Smiling with the mouth of the ocean – and I’ll wave to you with the arms of the mountain – I’ll see you” and passionate, one of the few genuinely emotional pieces on the album. “She Loves Me Not” is a forgettable effort at a show-tune, with Roddy masturbating on a his grand piano patch and Mike desperately trying to bail the song out with some mindbending vocal texturing. “Got That Feeling” is an ambitious compound time-signature nu-metal piece, which is great if you’re a nu-metal band, but rather unfortunate if you’re the band who wrote one song that started the whole bloody genre. “Paths Of Glory” is powerful, grandiose piece with a surprisingly strong hook riff from Hudson and some stunning lyric to support another soaring, intense vocal performance from Patton, with shreds like “Is this the only path of glory – If so then I won’t go alone – Follow the trail” grabbing the listener by the throat and demanding attention. “Home Sick Home” is a grand little dark-flavored swing piece that could be likened to a Charles Manson comedy tour. Ponder that visual for a minute. “Pristina” is a beautifully sparse final movement for the album, evoking precisely what I have to believe the band intended – this is it, folks, it’s over, we’re done. “In every dark land – in every flower bed – in every marraige bed – I’ll be with you – I’m watching you” – what’s left to be said?

    Overall, a fine coda to a spectacular career for this band. It’s completely unfair, really, to hold it up to the standard of Angel Dust – no band in the history of heavy rock has ever managed to eclipse their masterwork ex post facto, why should we expect FNM to have been any different? Still, it stands up on its own and demands to be accounted for in the annals of alt-rock history.

    Posted on December 15, 2009