(All Album Reviews by Tangento)
Masterful musicianship, highly adventurous
A bit fragmented and inconsistent
The Bottom Line:
All in all, this probably should not be your first Mr. Bungle purchase, but as time goes by it will probably become your favorite.
This is the middle section of 3 major releases from this seminal multi-influenced rock band. It is their strongest effort, from an experimental music lover's perspective. Mainstream exposure and recognition seemed to be the furthest thing from Mr. Bungle's minds while putting together this concoction of ska, grind, jazz, tripped-out ambience and instrumental weirdness. Listening to this CD from one end to the other is like some strange journey encompassing surreal dreams, violent nightmares and many of the things in-between.
The disc starts out with what is probably Bungle's least accessible song to date, "Everyone I Went To High School With Is Dead". This is a slow, raw and ugly dirge. Next up is "Chemical Marriage", which is a loungy, catchy yet spooky little number, oddly enchanting. It is a bouncy, dynamic organ-based piece with Mike Patton's psychotic vocal stylings sprinkled about. This leads us into "Carry Stress in the Jaw" which is a two-parter: Part 1 sports a noisy then jazzy intro, bangs and crashes thrashily along, finally collapsing into chaos (which is a running motif on this album). I get the sense of a Poe/cocaine theme here. Part 2 twangs madly about with Devo/ Wall of Voodoo-esque guitar noodling and old man narratives, whiny silliness and banshee wailing courtesy of Patton. (Part 2, as I call it, is also known as 'The Secret Song')
Patton starts the next number, "Desert Search for Techno Allah" with the maddening sounds of gagging and (hopefully) dry heaves. This is a landmark song for the album, and for Bungle as a whole. The name pretty much sums it up, a journey through some far-off middle-eastern wasteland, ornamented with a techno beat and weird chants of "Qiamat qiamat a tawil", etc. A great atmospheric piece of work.
"Violenzia Domestica" is a strange, sometimes lovely Italiano-flavored dispute thing that eventually gets a bit ugly. Mike pours out a bit of his (or someone's) heart in "After School Special" revealing a childhood filled with an abusive father and an understanding and supportive Mother. "Phlegmatics" meanders through avant-jazzy terrain, with free-form structure and flowing jams.
"Ma Meeshka Ma Skwoz", at times, is the closest this band has come to sounding like Frank Zappa, with some very nice ska/Oingo Boingo-isms thrown about for good measure. This band's excellent musicianship is in full display here.
The strangest track here, "The Bends" is one that cannot easily be described. The next number (my favorite)"Backstrokin'" seems to be a continuation of it, and both must be heard to be understood, if not believed. Ambient, episodic, surreal and disturbing are a few descriptives which apply here.
"Platypus" is another Jazzy entry- playful, witty and spastic. The disk closes with what is one of Mr. Bungle's catchiest yet most annoying songs in "Merry Go Bye-Bye". It is endearing and cheesy, then bursts into a cacophonous racket. Then it thrashes hard. Soon, it becomes a grotesque and unbearable clamor. Then it becomes quite sad. It is actually a bit depressing all the while, somewhat of an observation on God and suicide. This one I will just have to let you figure out for yourself. I keep a self-edited version of it close by, minus the NOISE. It makes a great song that way.
While you are here, please join me in a humble prayer asking that these guys continue to make albums. Thanks.
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