After replacing flamboyant singer Chuck Mosely with newcomer Mike Patton, can Faith No More still cut it? They think so but Paul Elliott remains to be convinced.
Chucking It All Away
FRAZZLED SAN Franciscan funkmetalheads, Faith No More, ostensibly preach more cool than honesty. A year ago they tired of intra-band personality crises and jettisoned original singer Chuck Mosley. Now they laze in Slash Records' tatty office block off LA'S Melrose Avenue, all but denying Mosley's existence. Faith No More have a new singer now - 21 -year-old Mike Patton and Chuck Mosley is, supposedly, history. Yet Mosley is a ghost that FNM are struggling to exorcise and his legacy is now defiled with bitterness. Patton is coping well as Mosley's replacement. The FNM FNG (Fugging New Guy. in Vietnam combatspeak) is a more tuneful singer, and his phrasing goofier, but he lacks some of Mosley's presence.
Bug-eyed and dreadlocked, Mosley was a bizarre and imposing figure. Patton is a health-conidous West Coast beach kid - non-smoking, non-drinking. Maybe all it needs is time and space for Patton to grow, but Chuck Mosley will not be forgotten easily. Faith No More's attempts to shrug his memory off their backs are rather unreasoned and, occasionally, smack of bullshit.
One glaring example is drummer Mike Bordin's puzzling announcement: "To me. the new shit sounds more like Faith No More than it ever did- When I hear the band in my mind I don't hear the tinging."Especially Chuck's stuff; it never struck me as the ideal voice. Now we've gotten closer to what we want the band be."
THE REAL Thing is Faith No More's third album. Produced again by Matt Wallace, it's a weird and wild ride, but it doesn't startle like the preceding 'Introduce Yourself'. The new record is more melodic, less guitar-heavy. Beats are big and compulsive, if not as raw at the stark 'Chinese Arithmetic' or 'The Crab Song'. Aside from the furious 'Surprise! You're Dead!', Patton's vocal is cartoonish where Mosley's sweated blood. Keyboards are now a primary colour and not a secondary detail. 'The Real Thing' is something of a rebirth, the upshot of radical change, but ultimately it could only be the creation of Faith No More. Chuck wasn't the makeweight he's been branded but, equally, his loss hasn't broken the band's spirit.
"It's not such a big deal for us," insists keyboard player Roddy Bottum. "Cos Chuck never took part in the songwriting, it was always us who wrote the songs and he'd come in later and write lyrics. So it's still gonna sound like it did, cos the same guys are writing the
"The record company used Chuck at the centre of attention when the last record came out," says bassist Bill Gould. "But anybody who saw it live must have seen what was lacking in Chuck."
"This record sounds good," says Mike Bordin. "When I listen to it, I don't get any unpleasant surprises. I had that on the last one. There were a couple of rude awakenings when I heard it. This is a step up."
"Before," Bill continues, "nobody really knew what kind of direction we were headed in. We were just trying to hang on to what we had. We made the necessary changes and now it's going a lot easier."
Like narcotics - another of rock 'n' roll's prime fuels - creative friction can break as soon as make a band. Shot of Mosley, Faith No More are more relaxed and a stronger unit.
"Hell yeah!" blurts Bill. "Enjoying a show is a new thing for me.
"Last time around I would've gotten pissed off," shrugs Bordin. "And Bill woulda smashed up his bass, but now there's a better taste in the mouth when we play."
MIKE PATTON was the first and effectively the last to audition for the gig vacated by Mosley.
"We went through a few more after that," explains guitarist Big Arrogant Way-Cool Jim Martin. "Just obligatory stuff."
Bill: "It's kinda hard to say. He's the guy, when we hadn't even checked anybody else out. From the time we got Mike Patton to the time we started recording the album was around two months."
Patton has an offbeat style; has anyone come up with a credible comparison yet?
"I think he sounds like Sade," mumbles Jim. Roddy: "My room-mates think he
sounds like Prince."
Patton's singing adds much to Faith No More's new accessibility. If stylistically different. 'Falling To Pieces' still sounds I ike a successor to the freak UK hit, 'We Care A Lot'.
"It'd be great if that was a single," says Roddy before turning sheepishly to
the other four.
"Uh. Should we say whether it was intentional or not?" You mean you deliberately custom-wrote a single?
'"From Out Of Nowhere' is the obvious single," snaps Jim.
"We had 14 songs ready for this record," adds Bordin. "So there's a lot of extremes. There's some real pretty stuff on there, 'Falling To Pieces' used to be called 'The Pretty Song' cos we wanted something pretty on there."
"To leave out stuff like that would be dishonest," pleads Roddy in shaky justification of the band's calculated commercialism.
"And one-sided," says Bill.
'The Real Thing's' other extremes are gut-metal riffing, snaking epics and a piece of queasy cocktail lounge kitsch. "There's some serious riffs in there, yeah," nods Jim. '"Woodpecker From Mars', 'The Real Thing', and 'War Pigs' of course - our version's pretty true, pretty close."
Bill: "It Just sounds like Black Sabbath through an aural enhancer."
Jim: "'Epic started out with no words. It has an epic mood."
Bill: "Like Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea!"
"Epic"s kinda vague," says Mike Patton, seemingly a reluctant conversationalist. "It's not really about anything. I actually wanted to call that song 'It', cos that's all it says."
"The title song is the biggest epic." says Bordin proudly. "It's got some good words too. Mike doesn't talk about 'em much but he writes some fuggin' cool words."
"And the bluesy song. 'Edge Of The World'." recalls Jim, "was one of Bill's hallucinations."
"I zapped it up quite a bit," laughs Roddy. "It's a pretty white song, schmaltzy. Picture a grand piano and Martinis and Liberace in his coffin in the coma."
"White pigs in Beverly Hilts playing the blues!" chuckles mass murder buff Bill,
his unique 'Elvis Orbison' sideburns twitching.
Exchanging one unhinged voice for another. Faith No More remain one of America's most perverse rock 'n' roll bands. The new record is, by design, a little more immediate but it's still the real thing; monstrous, vibrant and teetering crazily on a chemical imbalance.