Tag Archives: mr. bungle

365 Days of Mike Patton: “Dead Goon,” Mr. Bungle (1991)

If you like disturbing Mr. Bungle themes and lyrics, “Dead Goon” could be exactly what you want to hear. It’s the final tune off Mr. Bungle’s self-titled debut, and at 10 minutes long, it’s a big of a slog.

But it’s worth listening to at least once. Especially if you like hearing a first-person account of a person who accidently kills himself due to auto asphyxiation.

If you can get past the early passage that sounds like a comedy tune performed by Les Claypool and a carnival barker, the song opens into something special about two minutes in.

And honestly, I kind of forgot about it. This song comes so late in the album, and I enjoy so many other aspects of the record that I almost never listen to “Dead Goon” on purpose. But I should, because Patton’s voice is pure and that bass line is funky.

And then it gets carnival-y again (it actually sounds almost the same as Disco Volante’s “Platypus”). And then back to the soft vocals I really love. And back and forth.

The song is almost really great. But it’s hard for me to go from extreme to extreme and back again in the span of a few minutes. Sometimes, I love that aspect of Mr. Bungle. This one, though, is a little jarring. And then there’s that creaking rope at about the 5-minute mark—which, now that we know what the song is about, is an interesting detail.

The lyrical content isn’t the only thing that disturbed Mr. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn about this tune. As he explained on his website, “Dead Goon” was a pain. (For the record, I’m taking his explanation as serious, though he could totally be joking or playing it a little tongue-in-cheek.)

Wrote Dunn, “This bass-line was written by drummer Danny Heifetz (no bassist in their right mind would dream it up ). You will notice that it is basically two chromatic scales starting an octave apart (C#) and collapsing (one ascending, one descending) to a unison (F#). If you play this line on piano with one finger from each hand you will realize what a ridiculous concoction it is. On bass, however, it’s not so easy. It took me a long time to figure out how to play it, and a very short time to forget it.”

If you’d like to see a YouTube cover of that bass line, this dude has you covered.

Previously from Mr. Bungle:

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Vanity Fair,” Mr. Bungle (1999)

When Mr. Bungle released its third and final album California in 1999, there was no doubt that it was a departure from the band’s first two albums. It was more melodic and more mainstream. Hell, it was more cohesive.

That wasn’t by accident.

“The only thing I can really say about it is that there are more songs on this record than we’ve ever written together in the past,” Mike Patton told the AV Club in 1999. “When we started writing for this record, it became apparent that we were all writing in the song form more than we ever had, and we said, ‘Hey, it would be fun to do a record of songs.’ As opposed to operettas or jazz improvs or, you know, noise pieces—whatever the hell you want to call them. We thought the stuff seemed really strong, so we stuck with it. It felt natural. An electro-acoustic noise piece or whatever just wouldn’t fit on this record.”

One result is “Vanity Fair,” a song pretty much unlike anything Mr. Bungle produced. It’s about as mainstream as the punk/metal/ska/avante garde/noise/etc band could get. With some doo-wop thrown in for good measure.

According to bassist Trevor Dunn, he was originally going for more of a sultry vibe.

“I had written a slow Marvin Gaye style verse with an awkward bridge and I had sort of lost faith in it as a complete song,” he told Faith No More Followers. “Patton felt more inspired to do something with it than I did and he sped it up into a sort of doo-wop style and wrote a melody over it.”

Though the music is upbeat, one theory gives it a depressing pall. According to New World Ocean

“Vanity Fair,” addresses a society succumbed to the superficiality of cosmetic surgery.  The song’s title could be a reference to the 1846 novel by William Thackeray, a satire on 19th Century English middle and upper class society.  “The reality Vanity Fair reveals is the ugliness in a capitalist society. Thackeray said describing the reality must expose much unpleasant facts”.[28]  Patton reveals the ‘ugliness’ of plastic surgery in the first line:

“You’re not human/You’re a miracle/A preacher with an animal’s face.”

“Animal’s face” is a reference to collagen, a group of proteins found in animal tissue that is widely used in Botox and plastic surgery.  However, the ugliness of the lyrically matter is juxtaposed by what is perhaps the most appeaseable musical matter there is: Doo-Wop.  This displays the album’s essence of irony over nostalgia.

An ironic Patton tune? Sounds about right to me.

Previously from California:

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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:

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Desert Search For Techno Allah,” Mr. Bungle (1995)

One of my favorite songs on Mr. Bungle’s Disco Volante album is the Arabic-tinged, bass-heavy track “Desert Search For echno Allah.” I’m not even a techno fan, but when that bass drops at 59 seconds into the song, it’s hard not to feel your heart in your throat.

Like plenty of Mr. Bungle songs, this has multiple layers. There’s the techno aspect. There’s the almost horror movie type soundtrack at other points in the song. There’s Patton’s spoken word and screaming. There are the lyrics that read “Qiyamat a tawil” and “Qiyamat insan al kamel” (which reportedly roughly translate to “the great resurrection of the beginning” and “the great resurrection of the perfect man”).

It’s a strange song, but the more you listen to it, the more normal it becomes because you come to realize it’s not some gimmick tune. There’s real structure and real thought put behind the song. That’s probably why I love it even though I never enjoyed techno.

Even Urban Dictionary has an entry for “Desert Search” that reads “A very kickass Mr. Bungle song, off their second album Disco Volante. Prince of Persia on acid. Ruined people’s speakers back in the 90s.”

Yep, that rattling I heard in the speakers of my 1993 Saturn I drove in college and into young adulthood? You can probably blame it on Sevendust’s “Rumble Fish” and “Desert Search For a Techno Allah.”

And just for the heck of it, here’s a live version from 2000. Mr. Bungle played this song at the show I attended in 1999 but I don’t really remember it. Which is too bad, because it’s pretty awesome.

 Previously from Disco Volante:

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “My Ass Is On Fire,” Mr. Bungle (1991)

By the time Mr. Bungle released its self-titled album in 1991, Faith No More and Mike Patton were riding high because of the success of “Epic.” That’s probably why Warner Bros. released this ad touting Mr. Bungle’s major-label debut as Patton’s “serious weird new project.”

In reality, though, Mr. Bungle predates Patton’s time in Faith No More. The band formed in 1985, and according to Patton, Mr. Bungle’s origin was the byproduct of failed previous relationships.

“It was kinda like a merger between two bands,” he told Sounds in 1991. “One really horrible gothic metal band, which our guitarist and original drummer were in, and one really horrible metal band which did Metallica covers, which is the one Trevor (Dunn, the bassist) and me came from.”

The Sounds story at the time described how Mr. Bungle was nothing like Faith No More, and Patton even explained it to the author who wrote, “Sitting in a quiet corner of a London pub, Mike Patton warns by way of introduction that a Faith No More interview is one thing, a Mr. Bungle interview is something entirely different.”

The same applies to the music, including “My Ass Is On Fire,” which runs through a gamut of brass-tinged metal with a jazzy flavor that also features turntables and a siren.

Nearly a decade later, while supporting its third album, Mr. Bungle had a slightly different take on “My Ass Is On Fire.”

For a song in which he screams, “It’s not funny, my ass is on fire,” the later version feels much more mature. And yet it rocks even harder.

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

365 Days of Mike Patton: “Ars Moriendi,” Mr. Bungle (1999)

There are quite a few Mr. Bungle songs that change drastically in tone throughout a four-minute song.

They’ll go from jazz to death metal. They’ll go from klezmer to operatic. They’ll go from doo-wop to, I don’t know, scatological. That’s what “Ars Moriendi,” from Mr. Bungle’s final album California, accomplishes. Though California is certainly Mr. Bungle’s most accessible album—and it is, by far, my favorite—NME calls the band, which formed a few years before Patton was tapped as Faith No More’s lead singer, his “truest, sickest love.”

The song title is Latin, and it means “art of dying.” And man, it is schizophrenically paced.

NME describes it as “mixing Arabian skirmishes with blitzing metallic riffage and note-perfect [elevator] muzak.” All of that is true. But the 29 seconds I love the best are the raging Arabian-tinged techno beat that morphs into downright hard rock (it goes from 1:17 to 1:46 in the song). It harkens back to Mr. Bungle’s second album on the song titled “Desert Search for Techno Allah” (don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll get to it.).

Also, the final lyrics of the song are fantastic. “So feast on me/All my bones are laughing/As you’re dancing on my grave.” It reminds me a little of the title track off FNM’s King For a Day when he sings, “Don’t let me die with that silly look in my eye.”

I dig those kinds of vague sort of callbacks to earlier parts of Patton’s career. I have no idea if Patton did that on purpose. But I kind of like to imagine that he did.

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Platypus,” Mr. Bungle (1995)

This is one of the last songs on the Disco Volante album, so it’s certainly one of the tunes I’ve listened to least off this record (and one of the songs I know the least from the entire Mr. Bungle catalog). But it does give Patton plenty of room to work—he croons, he does a strange spoken word, he does a little scatting, he screams. The song is also rather schizophrenic, moving from jazz to death metal in no time at all.

My favorite part of this song, though, is not Patton. Rather it’s Trevor Dunn’s bass.

There’s actually a lot to like in this song, but there’s also plenty of less accessible moments, the kind of stuff that insured Mr. Bungle would not see anything close to the kind of success experienced by Patton in Faith No More or Tomahawk (and god spare me, the brief appearances of that Howie Mandel Gizmo voice).

The more I listen to this song, the more I think it’s a pretty good epitome of the entire Disco Volante album. Of the three Mr. Bungle records, this one is certainly the most experimental—some of it is incredible and some it, well, not so great. The same goes for this song.

But the more I listen to this tune—which apparently is actually about a platypus—the more I like it. Ten minutes ago, I couldn’t have told you what “Platypus” sounded like. But nearly 25 years after this record arrived in my life, I’ve finally realized I should probably listen to it a little more often.

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