This album took so-called rap/rock sound to another level. Yet despite this label that is really a misnomer, Faith No More’s Angel Dust (1992) created a master work of many genres which other bands have tried to call their own. I’m looking at you Arcade Fire and Linkin Park.
But I’m jumping ahead.
As a genre, Rap/Rock was started not by Aerosmith and Run DMC, but producer and record label owner Rick Rubin. It was his idea to introduce the rap element to the song Walk This Way since the song begins with a hip-hop type of drum beat, and the tune became a hit. One can argue that Faith No More took this as spring board to their sound, but you would be wrong. FNM’s music goes beyond this simple blend. An experiment that began with the album We Care A Lot and with the following albums went into many other genres, sound effects, and noises. Angel Dust was culmination of all this, going beyond what is found in their previous work in The Real Thing. The songs do not only express the aforementioned rap/rock sub-genre, but incorporate prog rock, heavy metal, jazz piano, funk, disco and industrial rock elements into complex arrangements. Songs take unexpected turns that, for any other artist, attempting this would have been a giant fail, but these musicians perfected something special. And this sentence bares repeating: Many other bands after have duplicated Faith No More’s sound.
For the uninitiated, angel dust is a nickname for the drug Phencyclidine, also known as PCP. Now then, let’s get to the music.
Track 1 - Land Of Sunshine - OCA (Oxford Capacity Analysis) is a test administered for the purpose of recruitment into Scientology. The song lyrics has often been suspected of taking lines directly from Scientology promotional material/pamphlets, but the religion known for it’s vehement attacks on critics through lawsuits and other intimidation tactics, this cannot be substantiated:
Yes, hmm hmm, now for the next question
Does emotional music have quite an effect on you?
Do you feel sometimes like age is against you?
I, I can help - I can help you - I can help you help yourself!
Does life seem worthwhile to you? HERE’S HOW TO ORDER!
Track 2 - Caffeine - Singer Mike Patton was part of a sleep deprivation and wrote the lyrics based on his experience. The incoherent placement of lyrics depicts a sense of imbalance stemming from lack of sleep.
At your weakest, etched in stone
And we’re frozen here, peeking
ALMOST, sweet talk, CAFFEINE
Up to my neck
I confess in quicksand
Track 3 - MidLife Crisis - Starts with an industrial rock/mechanical drum rhythm by Mike Bordin, the bass guitar is introduced as a kind of percussion instrument. The lyrics are literal. Also meant as an observation on Madonna - yes, that Madonna.
My head is like lettuce
Go on dig your thumbs in
I cannot stop giving
Sense of security
Like pockets jingling
Down through the family tree
Track 4 - RV - is an easy listening/saloon music number about a guy who regrets how his life turned out and curses his kid’s life for it.
Track 5 - Smaller and Smaller - There is an Indian chant interlude and based on that the song is about the conditions at Reservations across the country and how the Indian (as a people) has been left behind.
Track 6 - Everything’s Ruined - It starts with a tic-toc piano sound and kicks into a rock drum beat, a funk bass, prog rock guitar and classical string arrangement as performed in 70s disco music. I tell you this album has it all. Give it a listen, won’t you?
People loved him so
And helped him to grow
Everyone knew the thing that was best
Of course, he must invest
A penny won’t do
But he made us proud
He made us rich
But how were we to know
Now everything’s ruined
<- This picture, which comes from the CD booklet, led many to falsely believe the song was about the Soviet economy when in truth, its about the effect Henry Rollins describes as The America.
Track 7 - Malpractice - As fans of the bans Godflesh, this song is an assault. And the lyrics reflect the title.
Track 8 - Kindergarten - A wish for the simplicity of youth.
Track 9 - Be Aggressive - Keyboardist Roddy Bottum wrote the lyrics just to put the singer in an uncomfortable situation while performing this song. Bottum came out as gay during this time. And that cheerleader chorus really brings it together:
Track 10 - A Small Victory - According to singer Patton, his father always pushed him to win-win-win. A song with DJ samplings and prog rock delivery of disappointment.
Can you afford that luxury?
A sore winner
But I’ll just keep my mouth shut
It shouldn’t bother me (no)
It shouldn’t (no, no)
It shouldn’t bother me (no)
But it does
Track 11 - Crack Hitler - If you were to mute every other instrument, the keyboard playing sports string arrangements in common with 70s disco music. Some of the band members met a black drug dealer who claimed to have things in common with Hitler: They both have an ability to control people. And therein lies the rub...
Track 12 - Jizzlobber - By far the most heavy song on the album, this is an expression of fear for the penal system and what happens to those who walk into such a place with no protection.
Track 13 - Midnight Cowboy - A cover to John Barry’s theme for the film Midnight Cowboy. Very faithful (no pun intended) in its rendition until power chord guitar strums break in along with a thumping bass and pounding drums.
This is one of those albums that I listened to until the cassette wore out or was damaged and I had to buy another. The first time I saw them play live, FNM opened up for Metallica on the Damaged Justice tour. The were still supporting The Real Thing record, but it seemed like everyone in that audience hated them, booing and yelling obscenities at them. The odd thing was that with each song played, they kept winning me over. Although, I didn’t cheer for them at that concert I made up my mind to check out this band. And I have been a fan since that fateful night.
Angel Dust also marks a momentous occasion for the band in that guitarist Jim Martin left after the Angel Dust tour; the demon Creative Differences positioned him against the rest of the band. The most common story was that Martin wanted the record to have a sound closer to that of their previous record, while Patton pushed for what was eventually released. The irony here is that it was Martin who brought Patton into the band.
Jim Martin has accomplished the most unexpected success story one could imagine. He became one of the top 5 giant pumpkin growers.
There is an unedited interview with FNM conducted by MTV during the recording of Angel Dust where Martin clearly expresses his displeasure with the band’s musical direction. It clocks in at just under 4 hours, but well worth it.
* This is fourth in my series-within-a-series entitled Too Many Notes. Taken from the movie Amadeus, the phrase comes from the king of Austria, who enjoyed Mozart’s latest work, but in order to be perceived as all knowing, he had to find something to criticize about the musical, while not able to find any negatives, the king turned to a lackey for meaning, to which the lackey uttered the laziest, most unimaginative of music criticisms, “Too many notes, Sire.”
Question of the week (with a recommendation): Have you ever blown up a teddy bear?
A cherry bomb works beautifully.