Reissues Prove Strength Of Faith No More's Earlier Material
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 10, 2015 4:15PM
Promo shot of the Slash/Reprise Record-era band line-up that recorded 'The Real Thing' and 'Angel Dust'
Faith No More is on quite a roll right now. They’ve just released their first album in 18 years to critical acclaim, they’re coming off a tour that saw glowing reviews (including ours) and they’ll be coming back to Chicago on a victory lap to headline Riot Fest in September. So it’s no surprise to see the re-release of two of their classic albums—The Real Thing and Angel Dust—in “deluxe edition” form. So how do these albums stand up after 26 and 23 years, respectively?
Sonically, The Real Thing holds up remarkably well, still sounding ahead of its time when compared to other releases in 1989. It was weird at the time to have keyboards featured so prominently on an album amidst ostensibly metal guitars, but to today’s ears it sounds perfectly natural. That isn’t to say the band still doesn’t sound willfully weird from time to time. If there’s one thing Faith No More loves to do it’s confound people with a panoply of influences and genres.
Of course the band’s secret weapon on The Real Thing was the introduction of Mike Patton as their singer, with a voice that is elastic and capable of giving sound to a million different characters. When you consider the band had already written the songs and were in the midst of recording when he joined, and turned down his requests to change arrangements, his ability to wrap melodies and lyrics around preexisting and immutable songs is even more impressive. Anyone who wrote this album off as a funk-metal hybrid will be greatly surprised if they choose to revisit it, since it sees a restless band already stretching its boundaries.
Those boundaries would get completely blown away in the follow up, Angel Dust. If Patton had to wrap his voice around the band’s sensibilities on The Real Thing, Angel Dust found the band working hard to keep up with Patton’s more eccentric vision on Angel Dust. You can hear more of Patton’s influence affecting other members' songwriting, creeping through on a noise freakout like “Jizzlobber,” the sonic vortex of “Malpractice,” or the weird lounge aggro-funk metal (yes, that’s accurate) of “Crack Hitler.” At the time the more conventional songs on the album like “Land Of Sunshine," “Midlife Crisis” still sounded unlike anything else on the radio. And the cheerleaders leading the chorus of Roddy Bottum’s “Be Aggressive” are still a piece of pure subversive genius.
The thing that surprised us most after not hearing Angel Dust for quite a while is just how undated the album sounds. While The Real Thing stands up well, Angel Dust still sounds like it could come out today, or more probably tomorrow. There still isn’t anything quite like it (even in the band’s own catalog). If we were going to recommend any album in the band’s catalog as a starting point this would be the one.
But what about the additional material of these reissues? How does that hold up? To longtime fans there will be few surprises here, since just about all the tracks have appeared as b-sides or on the band’s 1991 live album. However if you haven’t been a longtime collector both albums are valuable for those b-sides. The Real Thing’s inclusion of “Sweet Emotion” that was previously only available as a Kerrang! magazine flexi disc—that’s bendable vinyl that used to come in music magazines for the younger readers—is a real treat though. We admit we’d never heard that. Angel Dust’s inclusion of a different take on “Easy” dubbed the “Cooler Version” is a cool curiosity also. And the remixes and and other b-sides show just how malleable the band was at the time, even if some of the dance beats sound more dated than the source material they’re attached to.
The only real let down on Angel Dust are the live tracks, many of which sound like they could be audience recordings; it would have been nice to have something a little more sonically clear to get a real sense of the band’s power at the time. However there are still hints on Patton's unique albeit at times aggressive and somewhat questionable stage banter, along with the band's propensity for throwing other songs into the midst of theirs, that still make these live recordings worth a listen.
Whether you buy these reissues really depends on whether you ruthlessly hunted out the band’s singles in the ‘90s and already have them. If you’re that person, these may be redundant. But to everyone else? The Real Thing and Angel Dust are still must haves for just about any music collection, and these reissues belong in yours.
Faith No More will play Riot Fest in Douglas Park this September. Tickets are still available.