That One Album That Changed It All
Posted by RiffRaff
Yesterday I read a post on another metal blog that I frequent, Heavy Blog is Heavy(you can read the post here). Upon reading that post a wave of fun and stupid memories from my high school days in the 90’s came flooding back into my mind as the authors talked about this very special album. What I was reading was a throwback to an album that I could honestly say had a major, if not the most important, impact on me and how my musical tastes developed into what they are today. That album is the self titled debut L.P. from Mr. Bungle.
For those who are not aware who Mr. Bungle are let me fill you in. Before making a huge name for himself in Faith No More, musical madman Mike Patton had another band that he was putting all his oddball energy into, and that band was Mr. Bungle. They were a metal/ska/rock/jazz/kitchen sink hybrid something that made bat shit crazy music. When Jim Martin of Faith No More approached Mike Patton to take the position of lead singer he took the job under the condition that he would be allowed to focus his energy into both bands. After FNM‘s The Real Thing hit big Mike Patton went back and began work with Mr. Bungle in creating their first foray out of demo territory and into a full length debut. Musicians on the project were Mike Patton – vocals, keyboards, samples, Trey Spruance – guitar, keyboards, Trevor Dunn – bass, Danny Heifetz – drums, Clinton “Bär” McKinnon – reeds, and Theo Lengyel – saxophone, keyboards.
So onto the album in question. Mr. Bungle is one of the most schizophrenic and insane albums that one may ever hear, and amidst all this insanity it’s a very well written, performed, flowing, and humorous. The big musical theme of Mr. Bungle is the carnival. But not the happy ride the merry-go-round, win a gigantic stuffed animal carnival. This is a carnival of ones deepest fears of clowns and carnies. The clowns makeup is running off and they have finished their bottle of cheap scotch, broken the bottle, and are in search of someone to beat with it. The carnies are just escaped from prison for committing unspeakable acts and not one of them is anything close to resembling mentally stable. The fun-house is a twisted murder house and the merry-go-round is a gateway into Hell. No, this is not your typical carnival, but a carnival of nightmares.
While all that may seem like the makings of a terrifying death metal album, brutal this album is not. It uses bits of metal, ska, funk, jazz, and rock to create the playful carnival atmosphere and splatters it all over to create the schizophrenic and insane side. The lyrics on the songs played a huge part in the intensely insane atmosphere. From a clever song filled with tons of analogies for fornicating with food, to a song about a carousel, to a song called “My Ass is on Fire” every song seeks to tickle your funny bone as well as attempt to viciously break that same bone. A fine line dance perfectly and surprisingly with grace. There are also interludes between each song filled with insane laughter, creepy sound effects, odd sound bites, and general WTFness that really bring the hysteria to a whole new level. On a whole this album is a completely fun, disgusting, and terrifying must listen.
When I first came across this record during highschool I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had seen it at a sitting there at a local record shop at the local mall, thought the cover looked interesting and it was on sale. I had no idea that it would include Mike Patton(and wouldn’t for some time as he is only credited as Vlad Drac in the liner notes), I had no idea that there would be carnival music, and I was ignorant to the amount of insanity that was stored on that disk. Alls I knew was that the cover looked cool and interesting.
On the ride home from the mall I asked my buddy who was driving to pop it into the CD player(start playing the song below at high volume). He popped it in and after a some seconds of silence he had thought that there was something wrong with the volume on his shiny new CD player, so he fiddled with the volume bringing it to a very high level. Then out of nowhere this terrifying evil carnival music come blaring out of the speakers making every one in the car jump out of their seats. Then after putting the volume back to a normal level the music transitioned into this carnival funk sound with oddball lyrics followed with my buddy saying “Jesus!!! What the fuck are you making us listen to Raff(my nickname)!!!” The other saying “You call this music?!?!?” I don’t think they immediately picked up on the genius of this record. Let’s just say that we never made it past the first half of the first song, but there was one of my other buddies in the back seat with this devilish grin on his face.
I immediately popped the album into my Diskman when I got home from hanging out with my friends and fell completely in love with it after my first listen. I had never heard anything so evil and insane before and my 15-year-old mind couldn’t help but find the dick and fart jokes immensely amusing. The next day at school I knew I had to show this album off to all my music loving friends. Some of them “got it” the others gave the same WTF look that I had gotten the day before. However the friends that “got it” loved it. They head-banged on that awesome album intro, laughed their asses of when they heard “Squeeze Me Macaroni” and “The Girls of Porn”, and were weirded out yet intrigued by “Egg” and “Stubb (A Dub)” and over time this album became a hit with a small group of my friends at school.
Throughout the rest of my time in high school Mr. Bungle was a reoccurring theme. When I got my driver’s license I was given an old work van by my father that he used when he helped my grandfather at his refrigerator store. It was the big ol’ rusty 1986 Ford Econoline rape van that was practically rust holding hands. I took the van with great pleasure and made due with its horrible appearance by making it even more of an eye sore(I really wish I had pictures of this monstrosity to show you all). I made a shoddy painting of an alien face in a spaceman helmet on the side and covered it with just about every type of sticker I could find, from metal band stickers, to stupid Spencer’s Gifts bumper stickers, to bread logos. I can’t believe my parents let me park that thing in front of the house. My van had soon become the hangout place for me and my friends as there was a couch, two comfy bucket seats in the back, and a box with two 15 inch speakers in it. We would cruise around town and be obnoxious in that thing often blasting Mr. Bungle at full volume with the windows rolled down as other drivers gave us some of the strangest looks I’ve ever seen. One of our favorite spots to go to freak people out with this album was Seaside Heights(ya, the place where they film that show Jersey Shore) and cruise slowly next to a group of bennys(Jersey shore native slang for the people like the ones you see on the show, ie guidos) in hopes that we weird them out enough to go away. It was entertaining.
During that period of my life my friends and I were also experimenting with a naturally occurring plant that is often rolled into cigarette papers and smoked. I will never forget that one time we were all out in my van “experimenting” and we had experimented a lot and with some good stuff. I decided to turn on some music on and chose a fan favorite. I popped on the song “Stubb (A Dub)” and as I looked back from the driver’s seat to my friends to see them miming riding a merry-go-round slowly going in a circle and as the music got insane we took part in what is to this day the most erratic and insane mosh pits and dances ever. I guess you kinda had to have been there.
Over time I listened to this album less and less only really popping it in when I wanted a blast from the past or when Mr. Bungle was getting set to release a new album(California soon became my go-to Mr. Bungle album) or a show was coming up(seeing Mr. Bungle live was one of the most hilarious shows I have ever seen in my life). Little did I know the amount of impact that this single album would have on my musical tastes. Becoming accustomed to the erratic nature of the album and learning to appreciate the strange and experimental styles it had to offer led me to become more open-minded in what I listen to. Things that one might see as strange and foreign I now look at as interesting and adventurous. Now that I look back at it I feel I can accredit this single album opening me up to trying new and exciting things, every thing leads back to Bungle. If you asked me some years ago what was the biggest musical impact on myself I probably would have responded with “Somewhere in Time” by Iron Maiden, but now, when I really think about it, it was really Mr. Bungle that got me to expand and appreciate all things musical, not really directly but tangentially.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, the album does totally hold up and is completely awesome and you should listen to it if you never heard it before(along with Mr. Bungle‘s other two albums Disco Volante and California) and if you’ve heard it before give it a spin for old times sake.
Have you wonderful readers ever heard this album? What do you think of it?
Do you have an album that really made an impact on you? If you do let us know in the comments, or if you have a blog make a post and let me know about it, I’d love to read it!!
Peace Love and Metal!!!!!