# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Faith No More - Angel Dust

  by Jeff Thiessen

published: 3 / 3 / 2010

Faith No More - Angel Dust
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Jeff Thiessen reflects on San Francisco-based experimetnal rock band Faith No More's 1992 fourth album, 'Angel Dust'

I like to think (it has to be!) of a cybernetic ecology where we are freed from our labours and joined back to nature, returned to our mammal brothers and sisters, and all watched over by machines of loving grace. -Richard Brautigan I remember a time years ago when I lost an argument about ‘Apocalypse Now Redux’. ‘Up until recently, this has always been a thorn in my side. You see, the original had always been one of my top three movies of all time. No matter what comes out, its position never falters and I have always held it in extremely high regard. Having said that, I still marginally prefer ‘Apocalypse Now Redux’ and I recall with stony-eyed clarity the discussion I had with my boozing buddy Kylin concerning a standard compare and contrast with the standard 79’ version, one he deemed vastly superior. I thought I had the whole thing cased. I had seen both the original and ‘Redux’ upwards of ten times, hence I should be considered an expert witness on the subject. So I was more than a bit perturbed when Kylin started in on the new version. “This just proves my theory, man. Deleted scenes are omitted for a reason, 99% of the time anyways. The original was plenty long enough. The extra shit in ‘Redux’ was pretty much completely unnecessary”. He then went on to explain why they were not needed in relation to the film’s general arc, themes, motifs, character development, etc. All the while steam was officially blowing out of both of my ears. I found a way to rationalize him being incorrect, telling myself he hadn’t watched either enough to truly formulate a proper opinion. The problem, however, was Kylin made some pretty spot-on points, both in regards to the original and the new version, and I was faced with the looming possibility I didn’t really have a solid counter-argument to anything he said. But after realizing this, coming home, watching both again, and readily acknowledging his criticisms. I still preferred ‘ANR’, even though I definitely had concluded he was right and it wasn’t as effective as the original. This was the confusing part for me. Then I figured out why I will always rock ‘ANR’ first and foremost, and it’s actually pretty simple: there’s more of it. A whopping 202 minutes compared to 153. That’s the sole reason I stand wholeheartedly behind the most recent version. When I love something, I want to have as much in it as my life as possible while still maintaining the initial attraction to it in the first place. Is that so much to ask for? To me, ‘Redux’ is better because it takes longer to end. The sum of the parts in the original may be better than the whole in ‘Redux’, but the whole is longer in ‘Redux’. That trumps the streamlined effectiveness found the first time around. I’m just never quite ready to let go of something that makes loving fun. Faith No More understand this, at least in theory. Not in terms of guttural length, but like me, they prefer excess over precise operation. So, while their 1992 ‘Angel Dust’ album isn’t an overly long one, it’s the most pure exercise in forsaken moderation I have ever lent my ears to, and everyone with a stereo and a volume control that rotates to high levels should own a copy of this record. Tonight when I told my girlfriend Ashley about this article, she asked what Faith No More actually sounds like, and I couldn’t really give her an answer. Even a label-slippery band like Massive Attack has fallen into the ‘trip-hop’ classification (although to be fair, they essentially created it). I mean how would you describe the music found on ‘Angeldust’? Sure it’s rock n’ roll, and there are a lot of fairly traditional arrangements kicking around throughout the course of the album, but not nearly enough to rely on any convenient shorthand description. So I’ll say this: their boom-bap serves as both the beginning and the end of the price of freedom. Emerging out of San Francisco, a hotbed for other peculiar yet strangely interesting bands (Flipper, Grateful Dead to many, certainly not me) Faith No More consistently upheld the city’s tradition of musical acts not afraid to reinvent the wheel through truly uncool methodology. One of the few bands to get better AFTER the departure of their original vocalist (Chris Mosley), Faith No More didn’t just improve after Mike Patton signed up. For all intents and purposes, they weren’t really even the same band. Patton didn’t only bring in a vocal range most rock bands would kill for, but he brought in a collage of sound influences that elevated Faith No More from being a tacky, Anthrax-wannabe houseband, into an ever-evolving act constantly incorporating elements from a wide array of genres, including metal, funk, thrash, prog-rock, punk, hip-hop, and even jazz. So yeah, I couldn’t really answer Ashley’s question, but I really don’t feel I should be blamed...nothing that comes out of San Fran is clearly defined. Most bands who sound like nobody else out there make a concerted effort to do so, and while I suppose there’s nothing inherently wrong with such a goal, many times it comes off as pathetically forced. In those cases, I’d rather chug a cauldron of castor oil than subject myself to such compulsorily scalding gruel. I mention this, because Faith No More seriously sounds like no other band I have ever actively listened to and I’ve heard a pretty ridiculous amount of records over my (semi)short time on this planet. It’s not an exaggeration to assert ‘Angel Dust’ not only triumphs on its own merits, but doesn’t painfully exert itself to do so and it will most likely destroy everything you hear following your experience with the album, whether it’s your first time hearing it, or the 172nd. You’ll find yourself denouncing other music you once found lively and anthemic, now deeming it devoid of substance and vigour, perhaps even using words like ‘stodgy’ and ‘prosaic’. I know I did. It’s ok, it’s all part of surrendering to the ballistic life-force that’s ‘Angel Dust’. Trust me, you’ll be better for it (and by better, I mean more like me, of course). I suppose one question is this: “How wired would one have to actually get in order to systematically appreciate everything within ‘Angel Dust’ on the level Patton and Co. intended, which is of course ripping up the joint for real through grease-paint and monkey brains, not to mention fine and true hollers in all the right places?” I’m not sure, but today when I was listening to this album, it felt like I walked into a scene from ‘The Wild Bunch’ and left through one from ‘Dr Strangelove’. Somehow, amidst all the sonic degaussing and servo control data being obliterated to a pulp, FNM manages to maintain their waggish/batty shtick while still maintaining their keen sense of concentrated theatrics. But (a bit) more on that later. At times their music is commanding, other times downright Herculean, but that’s never the endgame goal they strive for – it’s just a natural offshoot of four guys who take their music very seriously in the most incongruous manner possible, so we have this mutant hybrid of a sound that has the capacity to soar among the titans in Olympus, while at the same time hawking loogies on the tourists in Tiedemann Square. You try and throw a genre on something that routinely accomplishes this through one meagre fifty-nine minute album. Their intoxication of power can be easily forgiven though, and in most times embraced, since it’s not used to create motley compasses of curious moral bemoaning at the expense of their dignity, and any poor souls stuck listening to the inconsequential griping. Instead, the alpha and omega come in the form of burnt hog crackling and live renderings of Sebastian Bach’s ‘American Metalhead’; but it’s everything in between that really rides the lightning. Oh, how sweet they roamed in 92’. The Jesus and Mary Chain once sang “Everything’s alright when you’re down”, but to FNM, everything is only peachy-keen when you’re so far gone and out you can’t even remember how you got there in the first place. This isn’t a pure example of black ecstasy, but it is extreme awareness as seen through the eyes of minimalist beer-swillers, disillusioned jarheads, and all the suicidal prom kings and queens throughout the world. Of course Patton is the star here. Without Mike Patton fronting, Faith No More would just be one cool groove in a garage somewhere. His range is astounding, and it’s safe to say he’s whatever each song needs him to be; he’s kind of the Gary Oldman of early-nineties rock bands. Most times he ascends at a pretty swift pace, leaving the band no choice but to collectively rise up or brutally collapse. The good news is, they’re more than up to the challenge, and that’s already evident by the end of the crushing opener, ‘Land of Sunshine’. Like Pearl Jam, no matter how good the songs are, the group lives and dies by their front-man. Lucky for us though, unlike Vedder in many cases, Patton knows his limitations, and really lucky for us, the guy doesn’t really have any. As complex and inventive as every single track-offering on ‘Angel Dust’ is, we always notice him first and foremost. And that’s saying a lot when considering off-the-fucking wall songs like ‘Kindergarten’ and ‘Be Aggressive’. It’s as if Patton retained all his birth defects but none of his virtues. This startling and degenerate consistency lends itself to moment-after-moment of nerve shredding sonic youth and outright hilarity. The best part of all: the machine of loving grace is self-aware. ‘Angel Dust’ in its refusal to fold into any expedient package continues to astonish to this day, nearly twenty years after its release. No two arrangements are the same, no two lyrical subjects; hell, not even tempos have a basic constant throughout. Some grind (the terrific ‘Jizzlobber’, a personal favourite); some insist on pushing forward (‘Everything’s Ruined’, as the primo example of this); and others just breezily bounce around (the hilarious ‘RV’, or the wonderful closer ‘Midnight Cowboy’). It’s no small feat that FNM not only combines meta-metal and high cinema successfully, but in nearly equal and totally appropriated doses. This might just be something Faith No More does brilliantly, that nobody else in the free world can come close to accomplishing without sounding like orchestral douchbags who cover Primus songs while wearing Free Mumia tees and cargo pants. Perhaps the nicest thing I can say about ‘Angel Dust’ and for the most part, FNM as a whole, is the entire record sounds like a logical continuum of Shriekback’s immortal ‘Nemesis’ track. I’m fairly certain you haven’t heard this rare tune, but it’s always been this solitary albatross who was always eager, but much too drunk to ever find Scarborough Fair, where the air is true and everyone spends their days singing and laughing at each other. ‘Nemesis’ always stood alone as the one song I had heard that personified love and confusion in direct correlation with each other. But more importantly, this was never a ‘complaint box’ thing for Shriekback; they liked that assimilation. Like them, FNM is hip to the fact that rejoicing can come through sing-song, and they teach us that perception is everything. Who’s to fucking say things like RV parks, caffeine addiction, or even a doctor sewing a spleen up with scissors still inside the abdomen, can’t take on a larger than life scale when seen through the glazed eyes of a guy who takes those things very seriously on a carnivale insight? Perception is taught to us through trivialities being processed through grandiose constancy, and it’s not only an important lesson to subscribe to, but a real fun one as well. Happiness to Patton certainly isn’t a warm gun, instead it’s discord made into something much bigger than it oughta be, and when we examine the initial friction with a sledgehammer instead of a magnifying glass, the relevance of it all just doesn’t seem to be there anymore. Too many of us submissively spend our entire existence under the pressure of looming problems, listen to ‘Angel Dust’ enough, and you’ll not only loom over those sources of stress, you’ll waste no time dismissing them with the utmost prejudice. Just like Captain Willard.

Track Listing:-

Picture Gallery:-
Faith No More - Angel Dust

Faith No More - Angel Dust

Visitor Comments:-
265 Posted By: jamie d, london, UK on 15 Mar 2010
great article. great album. great times. a nice trip down memory lane and i for one shall be dusting off my angel dust later tonight ready for an early blast in the car tomorrow morning. AMEN SUCKERS

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