Two full years before Nirvana made “alternative rock” the buzzword that it continues to be to this day, Faith No More produced one of the genre’s defining moments in “The Real Thing.” While this album was among the first to mix rap and rock elements, you definitely shouldn’t let that fact scare you. While today’s would-be genre benders like Limp Bizkit and (to a lesser extent) Linkin Park seem bent on combining the most meatheaded elements of rap and rock for a sound that only a mook could love, Faith No More brought rock, rap, and funk together with more creativity and intelligence than anyone would have a right to expect. With the phenomenally versatile Mike Patton at the helm and a crack team of musicians backing him up, “The Real Thing” is a clinic in bringing together genres in perfect harmony.Although there’s a bit of a Bay Area thrash influence on display, “Master Of Puppets” this is not. The band’s sound may have been ambitious from the outset, but few albums in my vast collection are this fun to listen to.Even coming from songwriters as prolific and imaginative as Patton and co., it’s almost alarming how much high-quality stuff is here. Just look at the first four songs and you’ll get an idea of how far ahead of the game Faith No More were. The opening “From Out Of Nowhere” and “Falling To Pieces” bring together Patton’s piercing, in-your-face vocals, the band’s razor-sharp musical attack, and generous doses of punkish aggression. The head-banging rhythm and explosive rapping of “Epic” made it a justified hit. “Surprise! You’re Dead!” brings a menacing, thrash-derived sound into the mix, but it’s clearly all in good fun. From there, the classic songs just keep coming. “Zombie Eaters” starts out with a couple minutes of gentle acoustics (!), then stops on a dime and turns into a pulverizing slab of metal that’s all the more effective for the calm that preceded it. The eight-minute title track is a hard-pounding, constantly-shifting epic that makes my jaw hit the floor no matter how many times I hear it. The atomic bassline and neck-snapping dynamics of “Morning After” bring to mind the Pixies, while the instrumental tour de force “Woodpecker From Mars” provides convincing evidence of the virtuosity at the foundation of the band’s schizophrenic sound. And as if the original material here wasn’t enough, there’s also a note-perfect rendition of the Black Sabbath classic “War Pigs.”Listening to this album, it’s clear that the fusion of rap and rock did at one point have real potential. It’s just too bad that the radio schmoozers of today lack Faith No More’s talent and vision. But that’s beside the point, as “The Real Thing” was, and is, a classic album that marks one of the high-water points of alternative music. I like to think that along with Soundgarden’s “Superunknown” and Jane’s Addiction’s “Ritual de lo Habitual,” this album formed a sort of alt-rock holy trilogy. So get them all!