Thursday, June 18, 2015

Angel Dust
Melody Maker, June 1992 

by Simon Reynolds

NEVER liked them, and still don't "like" them, if you know what I mean. Faith No More's dominant emotion seems to be sarcasm, a sardonic, gloating reveling in the slimy side of life. They're retards, nasty little boys probing a finger in the gooey innards of reality, driven by a sort of gynecological nihilism. Like all adolescent nihilists, they project their feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing outwards, onto the world.

But "Epic" was undeniable - pop Nietzche, the latest take on the "we want the world and we want it now/ don't know what I want but I know how to get it" rock tradition of impossible demands and limitless desire.  The video for "Epic", with its Darwinesque life/death struggle imagery suggested that a corrosive intelligence was at work, as did such twisted, sick-fuck statements as Patton's "Masturbation is a lot easier to do than relating to someone... With sex, no matter how great is is, there's always something missing".

And "Angel Dust" is just immense. Imagine "Never Mind The Bollocks", produced by Brian May, if Steve Jones had grown up on Sabbath and King Crimson rather than The Faces. Pomp rock motored by punk disgust. Symphonic bombast, scrofulous with detail. Visionary venom, misanthropic majesty, grotesque grandeur.

 Aesthetically and philosophically, "Angel Dust" is profoundly, putridly offensive, but I keep coming back to it, like a scab. The outstanding element here is Mike Patton's voices, which I find skin-scrawlingly repellent and endlessly mesmerising, Patton is multi-tracked into a myriad. maggoty throng, or, within songs, flits between schizoid array of idioms: baroque histrionics,"soulful", slimy croon, punk declamation, funk-metal sneer, not to mention his menagerie of hiccups, belches, yodels, mewling and poking.

On "Midlife Crisis", he starts with a snide, sibilant rap, swoons upward in a jazzy, Al Jarreau-ish arc, then slugs it out in a close combat cut and thrust that's pure hardcore. The lyrics lash and lambaste some middle class, lard-ass, play-safe type who's built up a cocoon of security and comfort (key negative concepts in the FNM world view). The line "Your menstruating   heart" - doubtless aimed at "wet liberals" and people who profess to care a lot- is deeply revealing. For FNM, feelings of tenderness,empathy and solidarity are threatening, female and fluid, o loathsome discharge. "R.V." is a waltz-time spoof-monologue by a redneck reactionary whose final words to his kids are "What my daddy fold me 'You ain't never gonna amount to nothin'".

On "Smaller And Smaller", Patton's a funk-metal Billy Mackenzie, surfing a sturm-und-drang that abates briefly for a ghostly interlude of sampled Aboriginal chant, before Patton lets  loose this amazing arc of wordless aria. "Everything's Ruined" is sort of Black Flag meets Aha, objection and uplift; FNM make a melodrama out of a (ecological?) crisis. "Malpractice" again recalls mid-period Black Flag, although Patton's singing is closer to the hardcore seat of Bad Brains' H.R.; an almost Julee Cruise interlude and maddened Balkan strings make this the most outre prog-metal since side two of "Ritual De Lo Habitual". "Kindergarten" has the most unsettling, ghastly / gorgeous chorus; the song seems to imagine the adult world as no real advance on the unbridled State Of Nature that is unsocialised infancy, still populated with bullies, sycophants, geeks and outcasts. Patton wonders " When will I graduate?" (to a higher kind of life-form).

 "Be Aggressive" could be a cartoon anthem for Nietzsche's will-to-power, complete with a chorus chanted by cheerleaders, but it's hard to tell: throughout the album, diction is not one of Patton's priorities, and the vocals are buried in the garish murk of FNM's sound. "Crack Hitler" jump-cuts from torrid funk to a Gary Glitter stomp- "Jizz-Lobber" is a grueling Sabbath grind, Patton's apoplectic fit of vocal fed through a fuzz unit and sounding more like a guitar than a larynx. Finally, one moment of unalloyed; sentimentality, a straight and rather stiff reading of John Barry's sublimely melancholic "Midnight Cowboy". But maybe this is a sick joke too.

If 1992 is the year that punk finally happened in the US, if Nirvana are the Pistols, L7 are the Ramones and Hole are The Slits, then Faith No More are.. . The Stranglers, a bunch of fundamentally unsound,  misogynist, misanthropic, crypto-muso interlopers who have profited from the perennial male teenage consumer demand for nastiness and menace. A gust of sour breath that feels strangely fragrant to me.

1 comment:

Ed said...

A review that made me run straight out to buy the album, and I wasn't disappointed.

I remember they used ' "Angel Dust" is profoundly, putridly offensive, but I keep coming back to it, like a scab.' in the adverts!