365 Days of Mike Patton: “Sweet Charity,” Mr. Bungle (1999)

The first song off Mr. Bungle’s third album, California, showcased the new direction the avant garde band was headed on what turned out to be its last record. The first album was cartoonish and juvenile. The second album was strange and dark. The third album, my favorite, was a little more mainstream with songs and melodies that can get stuck in your head.

Like “Sweet Charity,” with its surf rock guitar sound, dramatic keyboard work, and its big-ass booming vocals.

Mr. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn said California is his favorite album of the trio, telling Faith No More Followers, “I think that each of the three albums has its own personality and I don’t mean to create some sort of hierarchy with them. The first record is the result of irreverent youth, and the second represents a sort of identity crisis associated with ‘growing pains’ and self-reflection. For me, California is the culmination of a lot of individual and collective thought and a deeper understanding of orchestration and song form.”

In the opinion of Metal Archives, “Mike Patton’s vocals are at their absolute peak here. The evolution from nasally teen on [Faith No More’s] The Real Thing to 50s style crooner is complete with this album. I’ve always suspected there was autotune on Patton’s previous Faith No More outing Album of the Year (released around the same time as the software), yet California was supposedly recorded analog and without any digital assistance, making the odds of pitch correction being used unlikely.”

Either way, Patton sounds great on this track, and it’s one helluva to start what turned out to be a fantastic album. For Patton, what’s different about California is how much singing he had to record.

“There’s a shitload of vocals, way more than I’d ever done before with Mr. Bungle,” Patton told the AV Club in 1999. “The layering and stuff like that, not just with the vocals, but all the instruments… Like, if someone were going to try and remix ‘Sweet Charity,’ I’d pray for them. One track alone is a harmony vocal, then all of a sudden, it’s a glockenspiel for two notes, then it turns into a hand drum, and then it turns into a guitar part that lasts for 30 seconds. It’s a disaster.”

A disaster in the best way possible.

Previously from California:

To follow along on the 365 days of Patton, click here for a list of each day’s post.

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