Mr. Bungle

Picture of Mr. Bungle

Mr. Bungle

Mr. Bungle - Mr. Bungle ©1991 Warner Bros.
1. Travolta (a.k.a. Quote Unquote)
2. Slowly Growing Deaf
3. Squeeze Me Macaroni
4. Carousel
5. Egg
6. Stubb (A Dub)
7. My Ass Is On Fire
8. The Girls Of Porn
9. Love Is A Fist
10. Dead Goon

So the band decides to open up the album with thirty seconds of silence before the sound of smashing glass breaks up the tension. Any band who is just off kilter enough to try something like that is obviously going to be making some left field music and believe me, Mr. Bungle did precisely that in 1991. As we all know, Mr. Bungle is the original band of vocalist Mike Patton, who was a bit better known - especially in 1991 - for fronting some band called Faith No More. Mr. Bungle had actually been around for a long, long time but it wasn't until 1991 that they finally got a full album together to unleash on an unsuspecting public.

Those expecting The Real Thing II were probably quivering in fear by this disc's end.

I admit that when I first heard this album back in '91 or '92, maybe a few months after it came out, it annoyed the living hell out of me. The inclusion of so many sound effects, samples, sadistic sax (courtesy of producer John Zorn, who really made this album's sound sizzle), vocal tangents and unfathomable song structures made this self-titled nightmare an extrememly difficult listen. At first. It took the insanity that is "Stubb (a Dub)" to hook me and then start exploring the album a bit more thoroughly to extract the savant genius within.

Given that a lot of the lyrics here come across as blatently juvenile locker room sex talk, it's not hard to be put off at first. "The Girls of Porn" and "Squeeze Me Macaroni" are both pretty silly, but especially the latter have some pretty hilarious moments. "The Girls of Porn" is actually an extremely catchy number, if such a thing exists on this album. "Carousel" is a warped circus-ska-metal diversion that is sure to terrify. The aforementioned "Stubb (a Dub)" really shakes out all the musical lint and attacks any sort of convention with a twisted ire seldom seen in any sort of "extreme" music. And it's about the family dog. Perhaps the only truly unlistenable track is "My Ass is on Fire" that deconstructs into utterly intolerable noise and Patton screaming, "Redundant" over and over. (Yes, this was surely intentional.)

Mr. Bungle hasn't sat still over the years, though only reappearing sporadically. This self-titled album will probably always remain a nostalgic favorite given the set of memories attached to it during my college days. It definitely redefined a lot of expectations about music for me and is sure to attack any sort of paradigms that might exist in your head.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2000

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Review #2:

Demented. I can't think of any album that quite fits that word as well as this one. It's not the most experimental album ever made, nor the darkest, or "wackiest". But it oozes out this wonderful, demented atmosphere. The fact that the album starts with thirty seconds of virtual silence, followed by the sound of breaking glass, then breaking into a crazy horror-circus theme is enough to tell you that it's going to be a doozy of a ride.

The first thing people usually note about this band is the fact that it's ex-Faith No More frontman Mike Patton's original band. It certainly shows some of the craziness this man is capable of. But we must not forget that there's several more members of the band, all highly talented at their instruments and all part of the songwriting process.

This album radiates of a band that comes from a metal background, but have gone on to larger things. Instead of just sticking with the deathmetal "one-thousand-time-signature-changes-per-song" formula, they've expanded it to changing musicstyles instead. One song starts off nicely with an almost ambient part, then speeds up for a little rockabilly-ish segment, goes back to the ambience, and follows up with a short burst of mad screams. Suddenly it goes straight back to the ambience again. And that's about thirty seconds of the song. To say these guys are versatile would certainly be a wild understatement. The main focus of this album is a sort of funky circusmetal fusion. The song structures are all quite insane, but they always seem to make sense. Mike Patton has still not quite developed his voice and probably not found the joys of insane screaming/soundmaking here. He seems to be halfway between his current voice and the somewhat nasal voice he had on FNM's The Real Thing. Luckily it fits very well with the album, as the songs in general give a bit of a "bratty" attitude. The crazy, juvenile (often full of sex-puns and the like) lyrics work perfectly with his voice. The bassplaying of Trevor Dunn is already highly skilled. Mostly dancing around funky little riffs that he seems to improvise a bit on. All of these are the type that makes you shake your booty all over the place. And that's a good thing.

I could write several paragraphs about the quality of the musicmanship and how they never seem to have any trouble with any of the styles they try out. But I'll leave it with this comment: they all play damn well, and seem to have no problem with the sudden shifts, nor different styles of playing they try out.

The production, curtesty of John Zorn, is top notch. Always letting the instruments breathe enough to hear. None of the instruments are really put up front, except in certain sections where they're there for a particular effect. The production never detracts from the quality of the album, no, quite the opposite: It seems to enhance all the parts to perfection. There are a lot of effects and such applied here and there. But it's always done tastefully, except when parts are meant to be tasteless that is. And there are arguably quite a few of those, such as pretty much the entire "Girls of Porn" song, which is loaded with sex-puns and porno-samples.

Basically, if you're open for some fairly crazy, yet very catchy and good music, this is a must-have. The band seems to have a very nice sort of self consciousness, as apparent in one song where Patton starts yelling "Redundant" repeatedly, as the music slowly deconstructs. No one ever goes into virtuoso-mode, so you will not find any long soloing. They've rather made all the songs very compact, yet filled them to the brim with content. And they're all very different from one-another. From "Dead Goon"'s ambient feeling, to "My ass is on fire"'s thrashmetal-styling, to "Quote Unquote/Travolta"'s funkiness. But no song can really be pegged on one particular tag, as they jump around so much. This is one of the few albums where everyone I've played it to has enjoyed it in one way or other. It's just so plain-out fun, yet musically-adept, that it's quality can hardly be denied. If you're sick of all the mundane, "heard-it-all-before" albums that go around, you owe it to yourself to check this out. There is definitely nothing around that's even remotely like it. It might seem a bit daunting at first, but everything falls into place after a few listens.

I've had this album for quite a lot of years now, and I love it as much as I did when I first got it. An amazing effort by an incredible band.

Review by Řystein H-O

Review date: 10/2000

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Disco Volante

Mr. Bungle - Disco Volante ©1995 Warner Bros.
1. Everyone I Went To High School With Is Dead
2. Chemical Marriage
3. Carry Stress In The Jaw
4. Desert Search For Techno Allah
5. Violenza Domestica
6. After School Special
7. Phlegmatics
8. Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz
9. The Bends
10. Backstrokin'
11. Platypus
12. Merry Go Bye Bye

The wonderfully sick sophomore album of the world's finest pastiche project, Mr. Bungle, Disco Volante is a sophisticated and virtuoso collage of popular music genres. The primary difference between Disco Volante and its comical predecessor is the overall tone. Whereas the debut was a celebration of depravity with a playful and facetious quality, the second is extremely dark, convoluted, and comparatively introspective. The compositions are essentially soundscapes, bereft of overt form or order, organized loosely into sections. Each section is a piece of madness unto itself, with several genres more or less mashed together, sometimes well-structured and at other times wholly arbitrary. Where else but a Bungle song (ignoring for a moment the work of John Zorn) can one hear frenetic bebop fully integrated into raging death metal mayhem? Or lounge music along side eclectic cartoon music, with a dash of hardcore punk and klezmer thrown in for good measure? The density of the respective parts is staggering, with a lot of noise and freeform textures littering the transitions.

The lyrics and their presentation are often hilarious, with extremely dark subject matter malevolently imposed on satirically banal music. Patton makes use of every possible voice in his arsenal: guttural death growls, a smooth lounge croon, theatrically spoken dialogue, harsh screaming, effeminate pop vocals, and even a fairly ridiculous "Grandpa Simpson" voice. While the sheer variety is plainly absurd, all of the voices are subject to the internal logic of each piece. On the pseudo Italian collage, "Violenza Domestica", for example, Patton's voice dances between romantic whispers, a paranoid accusatory tone, and full on shouting. The whole thing, despite its seemingly strange nature, provides an interesting simulation of the origins and actualization of domestic violence. The lyrics are generally dark in nature, concerned with themes of abuse, misanthropy, and extreme tension; there are also a lot of nonsensical and playful lyrics, but not with the usual abundance. Patton proves once more what a lunatic he can be when properly motivated.

Disco Volante is probably the pinnacle of Mr Bungle's achievements, the dark heart of their career thus far. It both lampoons and celebrates the genres it exploits, with compositions that are more film-like and visual than conventionally musical. Unpredictable and complex to the extreme, the album has a dreamlike quality, fanciful one moment, dreadful the next, concreteness dissipating into formless abstraction. All academic pretensions aside, the album is one very wild, very nightmarish experience.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 02/2002

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California

Mr. Bungle - California ©1999 Warner Bros.
1. Sweet Charity
2. None Of Them Knew They Were Robots
3. Retrovertigo
4. The Air-Conditioned Nightmare
5. Ars Moriendi
6. Pink Cigarette
7. Golem II: The Bionic Vapour Boy
8. The Holy Filament
9. Vanity Fair
10. Goodbye Sober Day

As the unpredictable pre- and post-Faith No More band of vocalist Mike Patton, Mr. Bungle has intermittently spent more than a decade constantly shifting and surprising their listeners with an ever morphing style motif that has stayed in the same place about as long as a four year old on a Fun Dip Sugar high. The debut, produced by notable avant garde terrorist John Zorn, was a sexually lewd romp through metal, funk and carnival music. The delayed 1995 issuance of Disco Volante was a destructive noise and discordant collage of very difficult music that most likely alienated their original base of fans (or endeared them more, depending on perspective) and curious Faith No More fans who were curious as to what that cute vocalist was up to in his other band. Upon the demise of Faith No More, Patton has been involved in high profile projects, including the supergroup of Fantomas and finally the third proper Mr. Bungle album. California has given the band their largest perceived audience to date, as well as more accessible sound.

The most immediate thing of note on California (not to be confused with the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Californication) is the light, breezy and downright tropical sound of "Sweet Charity". Employing island sounds, occasionally fifties-ish melodies and an overall disturbingly easy to digest sound, California is at once simple to sit through and disturbing in just how the band throws everything in the blender this time around. The album is so sweet and candylike that you start to wonder exactly why you are feeling so warped by the end of the album. On the surface, California is pretty and if it were a stuffed animal, you'd want to hug it. But as movies like Chucky suggest, there is something mildly sinister about the album.

Putting your finger on it is the difficult part.

California is certainly one of the most oblique and difficult to comprehend albums to ever get much mainstream notice and is a paradox for being so specifically sugary on the surface and filled with vinegar on the interior. While I've not been as enthralled with it as many others have, I can safely say this is one of the most bizarre pop music records you'll ever hear. Even if you don't do drugs, California will make you feel like you're a junkie coming down from a particularly strange trip.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2000

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