The Joup Friday Album: Mr. Bungle – California

mrbungleI got to see Faith No More a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been in full on Mike Patton mode ever since. Few artists have inspired the kind of rabid fanaticism in me that Patton has, and in that stretch of years in between when Faith No More disbanded and then reunited, I sought out everything the man created, even the most perfunctory of musical endeavors or guest spots. And while he most certainly has had a misstep here or there, the vast bulk of projects, collaborations, and appearances he has contributed to are resoundingly good, or at the very least interesting. It’s his willingness to experiment and to draw influence from practically every style or genre conceivable that gives his work its oomph. And it all started before he was even in Faith No More with a different group of West Coast weirdos called Mr. Bungle.

Mr. Bungle started with a group of friends in high school in the 80’s, a talented bunch of guys taking their love of jazz, old European film scores, lounge, ska, funk, metal, and a thousand others musical genres and stirring all of those sounds into one sometimes-cohesive pot. Named for a character from a 1960’s educational children’s film that later surfaced on a Pee-Wee Herman special in the 1980’s, Mr. Bungle is all at once a collection of musical masters honing their craft with precision and artistry, and a juvenile, cartoonish sideshow of freaks and pissants. The band recorded four demos and three studio albums over the better part of two decades, their swan song being 1999’s experimental-pop masterpiece California.

Considered their most accessible work, California is still a lot to take in at first. The band’s penchant for jumping from genre to genre, sometimes jarringly, gets dialed back just slightly on the record, allowing each track to grow more organically and to flow from one to the next. Beginning with the cool ocean sounds of “Sweet Charity,” the album starts with a calming and breezy exotic lounge feel before descending into the chaotic cartoon-in-overdrive aesthetic of “None of Them Knew They Were Robots.” The album never lets up from there, touching on alt-rock lullaby (“Retrovertigo”), go-go surf madness (“The Air-Conditioned Nightmare”), middle-eastern freakout (“Ars Moriendi”), soulful doo-wop (“Vanity Fair”), and all out sonic mayhem (“Goodbye Sober Day”). It took a few listens for me, but once everything clicked, it became clear that there would be no leaving this album. It has the upper hand now.

I wish I had made it.

So, give California a spin below and then go buy the thing. And while you’re doing that, be sure to check out the rest of Bungle’s discography as well…and Faith No More’s…and Fantomas…and Tomahawk…and on and on.

 

Now let’s hear from KJ…

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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