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Mr. Bungle - California CD (album) cover


Mr. Bungle



4.13 | 237 ratings

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5 stars What can you not say about Mr. Bungle? The band only put out 3 official studio albums (not counting demos and etc.), yet in their time together, they covered more musical ground than most bands do with 3 times that many albums. They put their mark on just about every style possible, and where they didn't put their mark as Mr. Bungle, the individual musicians did later in their careers, and still continue to do so.

Of course, there is Mike Patton on vocals and keyboards, who, as most know, has been called the most versatile singer on the planet. His name became famous as the lead singer for "Faith No More", but he has also sang for "Tomahawk", "Fantomas", on several John Zorn projects, his own solo projects (ranging from random noises to Italian standards), and so many others. There is Trey Spruance on guitar, who is the main man behind the amazing "Secret Chiefs 3" and their many incarnations and styles, Trevor Dunn on bass who also worked with "Secret Chiefs 3" and "Tomahawk", "The Melvins" John Zorn and many others, Danny Heifetz on percussion and drums and Clinton "Bar" McKinnon on sax, keyboards and French horn.

Mr. Bungle's fans always knew to expect the unexpected, and that is what they always tried to deliver. But the music was always so well done no matter what style they were playing. On this album "California" all of the members have input and credits on different songs and their differences were celebrated through the music and the variety of styles.

"Sweet Charity" starts with a Hawaiian or tropical vibe with a theatrical bent. The chorus is so cool with their cool cinematic spy theme. Patton can make his voice fit for any style, and he can be flamboyant as he is in this one but also sings so fully that you almost think he was an opera star. "None of Them Were Robots" has a progressive and rockabilly and swing style and you can even hear a slide guitar is you listen closely. Yes, that is correct. Of course, Patton switches his voice around without missing a beat. The music is all over the place and it is really amazing to hear. What is amazing is how they make so many styles sound so cohesive.

"Retrovertigo" begins with strummed guitar and electric keyboards playing in a mellow fashion before Patton sings a tricky melody as instruments follow right along with him. The style is a lounge style but with that complex melody. The instrumental background sounds a lot like a more recent ELO track, that is until things get more intense in the middle with more guitar along with the orchestral feel. Patton's voice also becomes more emotional. "The Air-conditioned Nightmare" has a definite psychedelic feel to it along with a Rhumba and be-bop style plus the usual complexity of progressive themes blended together. There is also among all this, an amazing use of harmonics.

"Ars Moriendi" has the middle-eastern and European influences mixed with other things, including bits of heavy metal, polka, Jewish dance and calliope music. "Pink Cigarette" has a nice r&b beat with sultry vocals and background vocal hi-jinx and some Indian riffs thrown in for good measure. By the time you get to the end of this one, the whole thing is just barely hanging on to sanity before the alarm goes off to signal the next funky and crazy track called "Golem II: The Bionic Vapor Boy" which takes a circus style music box and sends it through an insane transformation of insanity with a variety of vocal stylings and kooky effects. Love it!

"The Holy Filament" sounds almost like a TV sci-fi theme song with sometimes odd and sometimes beautiful vocal harmonies, and plenty of atmosphere, beauty and dissonance. You could call this track Psycho-cinematic. "Vanity Fair" sounds like a boy band on acid. R&B with finger snaps, 50s style background, and the feeling you are teetering on the edge. All the while, Patton is singing literal vocal impossibilities with complete aplomb. "Goodbye Sober Day" is probably the quirkiest track on here, and that is saying a lot. It's like everything you have just heard and thrown together and made to sound like a song, in a good way.

This is nothing short of amazing. With all the styles and everything mixed, it all comes out sounding like one of the most entertaining things you've every heard. It is too bad that this was their last album as it is a masterpiece, but if you are sad about this, you shouldn't be, because there are always the Mike Patton solo albums if you like his crazy voice, or there are the Secret Chiefs 3 albums that are mostly instrumental, but carry all of the styles and quirkiness of the Mr. Bungle albums. This album is definitely essential avant-prog at its best.

TCat | 5/5 |


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