Yes, yes. I know. I’m purposefully tilting away from my resolute anti-success, faux-academic writings to jump onto the list making bandwagon. Blame all these endless business blogs I have to read for work. They all say that lists (and odd numbered ones in particular) are what you need if you want to get those all important views. It’s probably something to do with our incredibly short attention spans; with the whole interweb at our fingers we need a simple way of compartmentalising it all. Though admittedly by talking like this I’ve probably already lost you, you’re going to go read something about Taylor Swift instead. Best get to it. Mike Patton is one of my favourite artists. Faith No More are one of my favourite bands. To celebrate the release of Sol Invictus, the first FNM album since 1997, here is an utterly partial list of Patton & Co’s greatest songs. There’s no point running a blog if you can’t be partial.
Epic may have been the song that broke FNM over the MTV generation but when I think about ‘The Real Thing‘, it is The Morning After that perfectly encapsulates FNM’s dynamic. A thrusting bass pedal locking with Puffy‘s drums as Jim Martin plucks melancholy. To me it’s the perfect post-Epic introduction, leaning as it does towards the traditional hard-rock model that roots the early work. It also boasts a surprising variety of vocal delivery from Patton, hinting at things to come. A forgotten classic.
6: Pink Cigarette
How far we had come by 1999. Faith No More had been and gone (for now) and their influence lay heavy on the slew of Alternative Metal bands filling the pages of Kerrang!. In the aftermath Patton released an album with his longstanding college band, Mr Bungle. California is trippy as anything and a masterpiece of melding genres whilst still appearing accessible; Beach Boys meets Sabbath meets plain chant. At the centre of this pocket insanity is this lovingly crafted, beautifully performed and effortlessly crooned homage to doo wop. Simply stunning.
5: Pig Latin
On the completely opposite side of the spectrum we have this collaboration with The Dillinger Escape Plan. It is heavy and disjointed and awkward yet (as with all Dillinger) it holds together, becoming the audio equivalent of a brutal shaking. Pig Latin, from the 2002 collaboration ‘Irony Is A Dead Scene‘, is awesome. Patton firing out consonants like a railgun as screeching guitars and drums try to keep up. All with a healthy dab of the singalong. ‘Freeeeeeeeeedom, bloooooowing the candle out’. Mmmm. Nice.
4: Last Cup Of Sorrow
The last album before Sol Invictus saw FNM in more focused and rounded form than before; giving ‘Album of the Year’ a strange kind of sedate gravitas that didn’t move the mountains so much as lay claim to them. Last Cup Of Sorrow is a song that could only have been written by FNM; Billy‘s subtle bass line locking once again with the drums as Roddy‘s unsettling synth lines build a malevolent sound world. Of course, this particular song ranks higher than most because of the stupidly good video riffing on Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’. For reals. Have a gander, you might surprise yourself.
3: Just A Man
Probably the reason ‘Album of the Year’ feels more sedate and mature in comparison to past FNM albums is the relative stability of its track list, something that can’t be said of it’s predecessor. I have previously written about ‘King For a Day…’ so if you’re interested in my love then click this lovely orange writing; one thing to remember is that it is a bewildering album full of bizarre genre changes. Doom Metal followed by Jazz, Alternative Rock followed by a Ballad, with all of it played completely straight. Then right at the end (after the powerfully emotional ‘Last to Know‘) we get full on Gospel. I mean real Gospel, not just a choir adding some exotic flavour to the mix. Proper Gospel chords arranged for proper Gospel instruments with a proper Gospel vocal delivery. Were it not for the middle 8 adding a little FNM unease then it could be a church staple. Everybody sing along! “And every night I shut my eyes so I don’t have to see the light shining so bright, I dream about a cloudy sky!”.
Like I mentioned earlier, FNM broke up. It was a sad day. But it wasn’t too long before Patton was collaborating with Duane Denison of The Jesus Lizard to form Tomahawk. Tomahawk are brilliant (and, frankly, deserve a blog post of their own if I could kid myself that you’d read it); my first experience of Patton live was seeing them at the Astoria and it was mega. Ally and I were even featured in Kerrang! (though he was the face in the crowd, not me. Sad Face). This song (and indeed the live video) became an obsession; I’d simply not heard music so primal before. These were in the days of dial-up internet and I remember attempting to stream it every day after 6; it hasn’t aged a bit.
Honourable Mention: Capt. Midnight
One of Ally’s picks and one that narrowly missed out to God Hates A Coward. Second Tomahawk gig; a little older, a little wiser, a new album to play; we hear this blasting through the walls at sound check. Epic. Ambient-Dance-Metal at it’s finest.
‘In no particular order’, that’s what people say when making these silly little lists. They say that to mask the lack of thought into incremental causality; the list reading like numbered bullet points of equal significance. Not me. Sure, some of the lowlier songs on this list could’ve been swapped out (such is the breadth of talent in Patton’s portfolio) and many of you will likely be aghast at the lack of Peeping Tom (sorry Alice) or Fantômas. Yet one thing is resolute in my eyes; Caffeine is the greatest song Mike Patton has contributed to. Disagree all you want, I believe it to be true. I lose myself in the anguish and noise and violent currents in it’s structure. I stand in the path of its anger and despair and love it. The nearest thing I have found to being baptised by fire. Pure sonic evisceration. This is the song that got me hooked and this is the song that keeps me loyal. My teenage hazing.