The discovery of a new band is always exciting. Will it be something you’ve heard countless times? An experience that leaves a bad taste in your mouth? Or is it a treat from which you cannot stop consuming? I wanted to take a trip back in time to reminisce about bands/albums that not only introduced me to heavy music, but kept me coming back for more…
From The Archive: Mr. Bungle – Mr. Bungle
[This week on From The Archive, both Dormition and Alkahest weigh in on Mr. Bungle’s self-titled debut record.]
Our love of Mike Patton is well-known around these parts, as we’ve already reflected upon his work with Faith No More, Fantômas, Peeping Tom and his one time collaboration with the equally insane The Dillinger Escape Plan. So it was only a matter of time until we covered his other band, the experimental and genre spanning Mr. Bungle. Having formed back in 1985 with all the members still attending high school and taking their name from a 1960s children’s educational film, Lunchroom Manners, Mr. Bungle released four demo tapes during the late 80s until finally being signed by Warner Bros. Records. Their debut self-titled album, Mr. Bungle, which was produced by jazz experimentalist John Zorn, was released on August 13, 1991, and upon first listen, there’s a lot to take in, as the band mixed metal, funk, ska, carnival music and jazz into one of the most unconventionally structured yet cohesive sounding albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening too.
Although Faith No More will always be what Mike Patton is best known for, I feel Mr. Bungle was his true outlet as an artist. He wasn’t restricted to conform to any guidelines of the music industry and thanks to his fellow cohorts, guitarist Trey Spruance, bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Danny Heifetz, the whole band was free to experiment, share their ideas and write the music they wanted too. Each track on the album are schizophrenic meshes of genres, where at one point it will be straight up metal riffs that jump to a jazzy/horn section right back to riffs, weird nuances and audio samples. At first this album sounds like a hot mess, but give it a bit of time to grow, and eventually it all starts to make sense, and before you know it you’ll have this album on repeat.
I first started listening to Mr. Bungle back in high school. A close friend of mine introduced them to me, which was a bit of surprise since I listened to Faith No More yet had no idea that Patton fronted this band as well. Shame on me, but I digress. I didn’t know what to make of the band when we listened to the opening track, “Quote Unquote”, which was originally titled “Travolta”, but due to legal action, the name of the song was changed. But if you listen closely around the 4:54 mark, Travolta is whispered by Patton. Sick, demented, and twisted is what best describes the music that permeated my ear canals. The song is interspersed with moments of mellowness that turns into heaviness, which gives the song a roller coaster type feel. Patton’s vocals are top notch on this song as well as the entire album and coupled with the wacky nuances of the bass, drums and keyboards, the album feels like you’re attending a heavy, twisted circus that’s also down right creepy. Suffice to say, I loved every second of it! And now you can too… Be patient though and wait 36 seconds because that’s when the fun begins!
Mr. Bungle – “Quote Unquote”
Mr. Bungle – “Carousel”
When it comes to avant-garde music, Mr. Bungle has got to be at the apex of the genre. They’re bizarre, shocking, and insanely fun. The first time I had heard their self-titled debut record, it was easily the most challenging record I had heard at that point. I distinctly remember what lead me to seek it out as well.
Last week, I talked about Korn‘s debut record. I mentioned Faith No More in passing, but what I neglected to mention was that Korn guitarists Head and Munky openly admitted to biting Mr. Bungle’s guitar tone, affectionately referring to it as “The Bungle Tone.” My Korn fandom was directly responsible for the band first appearing on my radar, but what finally pushed me to actively seek out Mr. Bungle was Mike Patton’s involvement with The Dillinger Escape Plan some time later. I was fascinated by Patton’s performance and rage, and I quickly delved into Faith No More and Mr. Bungle to hear more of his amazing voice.
While I was quite receptive of Faith No More’s more accessible body of work, Mr. Bungle was quite off-putting. While heavy songs like “My Ass Is On Fire” stuck out to me (thanks in part to its ridiculous name), much of the record’s experimental merry-go-round ride was just largely way too bizarre for someone who just isn’t prepared. Luckily, my morbid curiosity and fascination about how extreme music can be really brought me back. It wasn’t long before I could appreciate Mr. Bungle for what it was. This album is an essential classic, so if you haven’t heard it yet, you’re definitely missing out.
Mr. Bungle – “My Ass Is On Fire”
Mr. Bungle – “Squeeze Me Macaroni”
Both Alkahest and I strongly recommend anyone who is reading this to check out not only this album, but the entire discography of Mr. Bungle. Even more so if you’re a fan of Mike Patton’s other musical endeavors. Mr. Bungle were a rare gem, and I say that because unfortunately they disbanded back in 2003/2004. Although no official announcement was ever made, any hopes of a reunion are dire and if by chance they do happen to get back together again, Patton will be absent. When asked about a possible reunion, he stated, “It could happen, but I won’t be singing. Some bridges have definitely been burned. It was a fun time and sometimes you just have to move on. I’ve got a lot on my plate now.”
Sucks knowing fans will never get the opportunity to see them perform live again, or in some cases, for the very first time. At least their unique mix of experimental, abstract and absurd music will live on and keep us entertained until we all take that inevitable dirt nap.