Mr Bungle - Mr Bungle
Warner Bros. Records
Avant-Garde
10 songs (1:13:15)
Release year: 1991
Warner Bros. Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Although they were commercially overshadowed by Faith No More, Mr Bungle were in many ways the superior band, and if describing a band as being 'better than Faith No More' isn't enough to make you sit up and pay attention, then you frankly need to take a good long look at yourself and where your life is going. Of course, most readers will presumably be aware of Mr Bungle, the maddest thing put to record since someone bugged Ed Gein's bathroom, and so my difficulties in actually describing the band's music will hopefully be appreciated. It is indeed hard to sum Mr Bungle up in mere words; fronted by the one and only Mike Patton and formed way back in 1985, the band played Death Metal at first but soon decided to mix it up, and their three full-lengths are wildly different yet strangely united genre crossbreeds, all absolutely timeless.

Interestingly, it's hard to imagine what a fourth Mr Bungle album would sound like, so perfect and complete are the three out there at the moment. Working backwards chronologically, 1999's California is unsettlingly freakish Pop music, sounding as if it were made by someone who has furniture made out of human body parts and who doesn't understand the difference between happy and sad, hateful and loving. Its predecessor, 1995's Disco Volante, is the most Avant-Garde and least structured of the three, the experimental mash-ups constantly wrongfooting you and making for an advanced-level listen. Going back further, to our subject of today, the self-titled Mr Bungle album is probably the most catchy and instantaneous, closer to Funk Metal than anything although with a clear Avant-Garde principal which makes the menacing and disturbing clown theme at once vague and obvious. For newcomers, it's the best way to start with the wacky bungling world which awaits you, although it's fair to say that the experience is a unique one.

If you're a fan of Faith No More already then you should be at home, the shrieking keyboards and sudden bursts of Metal riffage in Quote Unquote and the driving bounce of parts of Slowly Growing Deaf just two examples of where the two worlds overlap. It has to be made clear, of course, that the two bands are very different; you're in for a varied listen above all, and so the album begins with near-silence, quiet snores interrupted by a breaking window before the surprisingly epic keyboards kick the fun off. Although the Metal elements are often secondary to the main thrust of the various songs, it never matters since the songwriting is so excellent. These other elements can be literally anything, from the saxophone of Clint McKinnon (Secret Chiefs 3) to the sounds of someone literally taking a shit at the end of Slowly Growing Deaf - once you've listened to the album a few times, it's amazing how used to the whole deranged mess you get. Highlights are literally constant, although it's hard to beat my personal favourite, the euphoric food orgy that is Squeeze Me Macaroni. Looking for genius in action? You'll find it here. The lyrics alone are a hilarious read, but it's nothing to Mike Patton's delivery, which ranges from light-speed rapping to growls to delightful clean singing - as the song comes to a riotous close and you realise that you're only three songs into the album, that, friends, is the moment where you start to realise the depths offered.

I could write paragraphs describing the exquisite aural madness on offer - if I was picking my own personal Classic list, then this album would be on there, without a doubt. As it is, I'll just have to pick moments, moments as incredibly affecting as Patton's whimpering on the ten-minute freak-out that is Egg, ending about as weirdly as possible, or Stubb (A Dub) - a dementedly vicious tribute to an aged family dog. Moments like the sax/guitar interplay in My Ass Is On Fire deserve paragraphs of praise, but towards the end of the album an especially disturbing theme begins to emerge - the masturbation themes of The Girls Of Porn, perverse lounge-jazz interspaced with porn samples, before Love Is A Fist brings violence both aural and lyrical, with the great John Zorn providing some wonderfully strange squealing on the alto sax. It's Dead Goon, the final song, which really grabs you, however, a mad journey detailing autoerotic asphyxiation gone wrong - David Carradine as imagined by David Lynch?

Mr Bungle is ultimately one of those albums that deserves to be heard by everyone, not just the Pattonheads like myself who enjoy most of the great man's projects. Avant-Garde music is very rarely as listenable and enjoyable as this, the sort of album which makes a musician's reputation and which is just as good nearly twenty years after its release.

Killing Songs :
All, but Squeeze Me Macaroni is a personal favourite
Goat quoted 93 / 100
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