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Faith No More

In a similar vein to fellow Californians, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, Bay Area-based thrash-funk, rap-metallers FAITH NO MORE polarised the possibilities of mainstream stadium-rock, albeit with more than a smidgen of skepticism and cheek. Whether one was roped in to their hard-rock lair by way of the head-banging `Epic’, or by their schizoid UK Top 3 crossover cover of The COMMODORES’ `(I’m) Easy’, well, that was indeed one’s perogative, but as sure as eggs is eggs, FAITH NO MORE brought life and soul to every party of the naughty 90s.
Formed in 1981, by the rhythm section of Billy Gould (bass) and Mike Bordin (drums), the band had changed their name midway through recordings from Sharp Young Men to FAITH NO MAN – “the man” stemming from lead singer/guitarist at the time, Mike Morris; Wade Worthington was the group’s keyboard player when they recorded their inaugural platter, `Quiet In Heaven’, at producer Matt Wallace’s parent’s garage, toward the fall of ‘82. Breaking away from Morris and Worthington, Gould, Bordin and newbie Roddy Bottum (keyboards) founded FAITH NO MORE, duly auditioning for vocalists (including COURTNEY LOVE), before settling with Chuck Mosley and, finally, a guitarist: Jim Martin.
The 5-piece line-up now fully functional and operational on the “transit van tour” circuit, FNM began to carve out their innovative fusion of funk, rap, hardcore and metal. In 1985, released on local independent, Mordam, the band’s debut LP, WE CARE A LOT (1985) {*6}, drew the attention of Slash Records. A different kettle of fish to the group that emerged three years later, Mosley’s monotone vox and the band’s insistence to sound like KILLING JOKE in bed with PiL, the album’s strength was in tracks such `Pills For Breakfast’, `Arabian Disco’, `Greed’ and the title track.
Also produced and engineered by Wallace (alongside LOS LOBOS’ Steve Berlin), 1987’s INTRODUCE YOURSELF {*7} stepped up to the plate and re-“introduced” a re-vamped version of `We Care A Lot’, a minor UK hit. `Anne’s Song’, `Chinese Arithmetic’ and `R ‘n’ R’ were almost punk-like in Mosley’s shout-y delivery – and something had to give.
In 1988, due to musical differences and off-beat stage humour, the singer was discharged from the band. His replacement was the magnetically-charged, Kyle Mclachlan-like, Mike Patton, who immediately became their focal point, his impressive vocal theatrics and commanding stage presence transforming FAITH NO MORE into a formidable live act. MP also penned the bizarre, enigmatic lyrics for the band’s breakthrough record, THE REAL THING (1989) {*9}. Arguably the best metal album of the decade, if one could call it metal, it veered from the stuttering rap-rock of the aforementioned `Epic’ (a hit twice-over in the UK), to the sublimely aquatic `Underwater Love’, and on to a searing cover of BLACK SABBATH’s `War Pigs’ (for CD buyers only). With further fruits stemming from `From Out Of Nowhere’ and `Falling To Pieces’, the record went on to sell over a million copies, giving a tired heavy metal scene a much needed boot up the backside and, more importantly, the band the convenience of a bigger budget for their next studio album; 1991’s unnecessary UK-only LIVE AT THE BRIXTON ACADEMY {*5} was one for the already initiated.
ANGEL DUST (1992) {*9} wreaked aural havoc, a mishmash of styles even more diverse than its predecessor. By turns defiantly inaccessible (`Malpractice’ featuring a Kronos Quartet sample) and pop-friendly (`Midlife Crisis’), the transatlantic Top 10 set was characterised by a fractured, schizophrenic sound that seemed to tally with Patton’s increasingly outrageous antics. Following on from UK-only hits, `A Small Victory’ and `Everything’s Ruined’ (`Land Of Confusion’, `Caffeine’ and the carousel-like `RV’ were equally masterful), FAITH NO MORE doubled-up a rather uninspired cover of `Easy’ with the angst-ridden, `Be Aggressive’ (about oral sex); the platter became their biggest selling UK single, while the album – bookended by a relaxing take of JOHN BARRY’s cinematic classic, `Midnight Cowboy’ – also sold by the truckload following a world tour with GUNS N’ ROSES. Further soundtrack affiliations came through FNM’s metal/rap hit collaboration, `Another Body Murdered’ from the Judgment Night flick, alongside BOO-YAA T.R.I.B.E.
By the release of KING FOR A DAY… FOOL FOR A LIFETIME (1995) {*7}, Martin’s sticky wicket tenure was over when he was replaced by Trey Spruance, who played alongside Patton in his part-time side-project, MR. BUNGLE. The record was as uncompromising as ever, venom-spewing hardcore rage sitting side by side with wilful weirdness, exampled in full flow on UK-only hits `Digging The Grave’, `Ricochet’ and the Motown-esque `Evidence’. A blistering headlining set at that year’s Phoenix Festival (almost topping PUBLIC ENEMY’s poignant farewell slot earlier that day) proved once more that, live, FAITH NO MORE had few peers and even less scruples.
While the group – featuring new axeman Jon Hudson – maintained they were simply a rock band and nothing more, they remained one of the genre’s quintessential outsiders, image-unfriendly and maverick to the last, as evidenced on their swansong studio set, ALBUM OF THE YEAR (1997) {*7}. If not quite living up to the rather presumptuous title, the Top 10 record (Top 50 US) illustrated that FNM still had their collective finger in more than one pie; the poignant `Ashes To Ashes’ (not the BOWIE song) and `Last Cup Of Sorrow’, being their most affecting singles for years. Unfortunately, it would also be their epitaph as the band split up the following April, leaving being a SPARKS collaboration re-take of `This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us’ and a minor hit rendition of The BEE GEES’ `I Started A Joke’; over the years, FNM delivered the odd B-side cover in `Let’s Lynch The Landlord’ (DEAD KENNEDYS), `Greenfields’ (Terry Gilkyson & The Easy Riders), `Spanish Eyes’ (hit; Al Martino), `I Wanna F**k Myself’ (G.G. ALLIN), `This Guy’s In Love With You’ (Bacharach-David) + `Highway Star’ (DEEP PURPLE).
Prior to re-forming a touring FAITH NO MORE with former compadres, Gould, Bordin, Bottum and Hudson, from 2009-2012, MIKE PATTON kept himself knee-deep in work with everyone from MR. BUNGLE (again) and celeb union, FANTOMAS, to a solo career (including movie scores) and stints with TOMAHAWK, PEEPING TOM and The Moonchild Trio; the latter with avant-gardener JOHN ZORN. Billy Gould, meanwhile (boss of Koolarrow Records and BRUJERIA off-shoot member), had resurfaced in respective bands: Harmful, Fear And The Nervous System, plus JELLO BIAFRA and the Guantanamo School of Medicine; Bordin played for OZZY OSBOURNE and JERRY CANTRELL. Actively gay since 1993, IMPERIAL TEEN’s Bottum, also channelled himself into the world of OST music, scoring several movies from 2005’s Adam & Steve onwards.
Liberated from their contract at Slash/Warner Bros in September 2014, FAITH NO MORE were free to piece together songs they’d been working on for several months; a BLACK SABBATH Hyde Park support concert that July had unveiled a couple of classy fresh cuts, `Motherfucker’ and `Leader Of Men’ (the latter soon-to-be titled `Superhero’). Stripping away any misconceptions that “comeback” set (for their own Reclamation Records) was to be out-and-out alt-metal, Patton promoted SOL INVICTUS (2015) {*8} – especially `Cone Of Shame’ – as lying somewhere in the realms of SIOUXSIE/BANSHEES, The CRAMPS and LINK WRAY. With their claustrophobic paranoia and intensity intact after a lengthy 18-year hiatus, the transatlantic Top 20 album demanded attention from anybody that had written them off. For funk-metal fans – forget it, for eclectic theatrical alt-rock – there was “songs of the year” in `Matador’, `Separation Anxiety’, `Sunny Side Up’ and The SOUTHERN DEATH CULT-esque `Black Friday’.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/BG/MCS // rev-up MCS Oct2013-May2015

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