Underrated: Faith No More’s “King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime”

faithnomoreEveryone knows Faith No More for their absolutely massive hit “Epic” from 1989’s “The Real Thing.”  The band’s mix of metal, rap, and funk struck a nerve in both metal heads and pop scenesters alike.  It was everywhere.  Radio.  MTV.  There was even a mild controversy over the video’s use of a fish flopping and gasping out of water.  Then came 1992’s “Angel Dust.”  While eclectic and influential, the record did not perform near as well as its predecessor.  Hardcore FNM fans touted it as a masterpiece (which it is), but the fair weather fans and masses jumped ship along with lead guitarist Jim Martin.  With Mike Patton now becoming the more principal song writer, the band began to drop some of the rap-metal and glam rock that had propelled them to stardom in the first place.  Replacing it was more experimentation and forays into progressive rock.

Flash forward another three years to 1995.  Glam metal is dead.  Punk has become mainstream.  Cobain is in the ground.  The musical landscape is rife with the second wave of grunge and alt-rock.  Faith No More now seems like a relic from another time.  This is the climate into which the band would release its third album with Mike Patton on the microphone.  “King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime” came out on March 28th, 1995.  Gone are the rap-rock posturing and day-glo anthems.  The album consists of 14 tracks running a gauntlet of styles from prog rock to lounge to metal to soul to gospel, a natural progression from “Angel Dust.”  It feels more radio friendly, and yet more experimental at the same time.  It sounds like everything and nothing.  It’s one of my favorite records from the 90’s.  Naturally, it bombed.

So, what happened?  Radio play was menial.  Critics were unforgiving.  And the masses largely ignored it.  Even longtime fans bailed after “King for a Day…” came out, citing boring songs, stupid lyrics, and just plain and utter disinterest as reasons for their upturned noses.  Well?  Everyone was wrong.  “King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime” is a criminally underrated masterpiece and deserves your ears and your reevaluation. It deserves a second chance.

Where to begin?  With Martin gone, Patton brought in fellow Mr. Bungle collaborator and madman Trey Spruance to man the guitar.  The album’s potpourri of style and genre came in large part to Spruance’s jazz background and his more experimental tendencies.  The band followed suit.  This led to a record whose every track sounds nothing like the one that came before it, yet still manages to flow organically from one song to another.  It pulses and buzzes, snarls and hums, and howls and wails like some well-mannered schizophrenic.  The whole thing kicks off with a bang with the one-two punch of “Get Out” and “Ricochet,” raw, punk-influenced hard rock to grab your attention…and your balls.  From there, the album mellows a little bit with the R&B soul of “Evidence” (the only song to get any radio play).  It continues on its quirky little path with nods towards big band jazz (“Star A.D.”), lounge (“Caralho Voador”), screaming madness (“Ugly in the Morning”), experimental pop rock (“King for a Day”), prog metal (“The Last to Know”), and closes with a big gospel number (“Just a Man”).  Your average record doesn’t have this kind of variance.  It soars.  These guys obviously listened to everything, and thus were influenced by it all.  And the record’s and band’s popularity suffered because of it.  And that’s appalling.  We should be ashamed of ourselves.

So, go back and give this opus another chance.  Listen to it more than once.  It’s only like 33 cents on Amazon, so you have no excuse.  None.

Highlights:  “Ricochet,” “Ugly in the Morning,” “King for a Day,” “The Last to Know,” “Just a Man”


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.

One Response to Underrated: Faith No More’s “King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime”
  1. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    You are SO right on the money with this. King For A Day is fantastic. Yes it’s disjointed stylistically but in that they find the tone that threads the whole thing together. This is the band’s peak -though I do love all the records with Patton and Angel Dust is a close second, but King… is just magnificent in all possible ways.

    And yeah, so of course it bombed.

    GREAT piece.

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