When most music fans of my age group are asked about Faith No More, you tend to get a few different replies. They’ll mention “Epic” and how that was really the herald of the alternative music revolution to come. If they are a fairly big music fans you may get some comments about The Real Thing album or even possibly that tidbit of trivia where Courtney Love was once a member of the band.
Oddly, the thing that doesn’t come up as often is Angel Dust, the second album to feature vocalist Mike Patton and, in my mind anyway, the true start of the band’s awesome ness.
At the time of its release, Angel Dust got some interesting review both good and bad. Quite frankly, a lot of people, myself included, weren’t quite sure to make of it. The Real Thing had a fairly unified sound throughout the entire album. Angel Dust, however, had a song or two that was not out of step with The Real Thing (songs like “Smaller and Smaller” and “Be Aggressive” for example) but had oddball songs like “RV”. Then you had songs like “Midlife Crisis” and “A Small Victory” which were great but almost sounded like a different band.
For a lot of fans, this added up to an album that they didn’t like right off the bat or in some cases, outright hated. It was too different. The funk and vague rap vibe of the previous album were virtually non-existent.
But for some of us, this was great.
Faith No More could have probably had a pretty solid run doing exactly what they did on The Real Thing for another album or two but I would have gotten bored and I imagine that the band and the rest of the audience would have too. We all know of bands that got a hit album and figured “Okay, that’s the sound of a hit, let’s make every album sounds exactly like that one.”
Instead, they decided to try something different. Well, a lot of things actually. Mike Patton had used his time off to work with his other band (at the time) Mr. Bungle which would definitely go in weird places. But apparently that was enough to have his creative juices flowing and the rest of the band began firing on all cylinders as well. Patton’s voice had also changed, having grown from adolescent snark into a monster capable of ranges and textures that you wouldn’t have imagined listening to The Real Thing (he can scream, he can yell, he can even take on Lionel Ritchie with a cover of The Commodores’ “Easy”. Angel Dust was a declaration of the band saying that they were going to do things on their terms. Hell, it ended with a cover of the instrumental theme to Midnight Cowboy.
And damn it if it wasn’t the perfect way to end the album.
And to be fair, it wasn’t like all of the snark was gone, it had just matured. “RV” is a prime example of that. Other songs you just had to look at the title like “Jizzlobber” and “Crack Hitler”.
For me, at the end of the day, the two stand out tracks are “Midlife Crisis” and “A Small Victory.” It’s easy to hear why those tracks became singles for the album. They are both incredibly good. They are catchy and both showed off the amount of growth the band had undergone with Patton joining the band.
While I’m not sure what compromises the band would end up making before the release, the end result of Angel Dust is an album that does two things. One, it clearly states that Faith No More was willing to try anything. Two, that they didn’t particularly care what people thought. While the band wouldn’t return to quite the amount of musical exploration that Angel Dust had, it did mean that the doors to experimentation were wide open. While their next album, King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime, returned to a more unified album sound you would get songs off the beaten path like “Take this Bottle” with it’s lonesome, almost country vibe and “Just a Man” that incorporates elements of reggae and gospel. Neither song would have been possible had Faith No More kicked open those experimentation doors of Angel Dust.
Interestingly, I’ve found this album, while I loved it out of the gate, has gotten better with time. There’s a lot of tracks on it that could easily slide in today and would still be as relevant and interesting as they were in 1992.
Next week, we are hitting up the first record that made me appreciate the sound of vinyl and the mixing of stereo.