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Mr. Bungle


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Mr. Bungle California album cover
4.11 | 245 ratings | 28 reviews | 44% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1999

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Sweet Charity (5:05)
2. None of Them Knew They Were Robots (6:03)
3. Retrovertigo (4:59)
4. The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (3:55)
5. Ars Moriendi (4:10)
6. Pink Cigarette (4:55)
7. Golem II: The Bionic Vapour Boy (3:34)
8. The Holy Filament (4:04)
9. Vanity Fair (2:58)
10. Goodbye Sober Day (4:29)

Total Time: 44:08

Line-up / Musicians

- Mike Patton / vocals, keyboards
- Trey Spruance / guitar, co-producer
- Clinton McKinnon / sax, keyboards
- Trevor Dunn / acoustic & electric basses
- Danny Heifetz / drums

- David Phillips / pedal steel guitar
- Aaron Seeman / piano (6)
- Michael Peloquin / harmonica
- Timb Harris / trumpet
- Bill Banovetz / English horn
- Larry Ragent / French horn
- Ben Barnes / violin, viola
- Eyvind Kang / violin, viola
- Carla Kihlstedt / violin, viola
- Sam Bass / cello
- Marika Hughes / cello
- Henri Duscharme / accordion
- William Winant / percussion, bass drum, timpani
- Jay Steebley / cimbalom

Releases information

Artwork: Mackie Osborne

CD Warner Bros. Records ‎- 9 47447-2 (1999, US)

LP Plain Recordings ‎- plain152 (2010, US)
LP Music On Vinyl ‎- MOVLP1134 (2014, Europe)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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MR. BUNGLE California ratings distribution

(245 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(44%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

MR. BUNGLE California reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by soundsweird
4 stars Prog? No. Great music? Yes. Over the years, I heard so many critics lauding bands for blending styles in a timid, predictable way. "Wow, listen to these guys blending Irish and African music!" or "What brilliant visionaries adding electronic beats to Gregorian Chant!"... None of it seemed like much of a stretch, nor did it seem original. Then I heard this album. Even Zappa didn't take it to this extreme. It makes me sad that there won't be any more Mr. Bungle, by all reports. I went back to the first two albums, but they just didn't have the same impact. If I had heard "Disco Volante" first, I'm sure I would've liked it a lot. However, I think this one takes the same ideas and fine tunes them in a more succinct way. It would be 5 stars except for a couple of missteps here and there.
Review by Sean Trane
3 stars By the time this album was issued, I was not really paying much attention t Bungle anymore!!! So I only discovered some 18 months ago that his bum even existed; And I did not exactly rush out to get an ear on it, I just waited for it to get on the library shelves. However, I find this album a little easier to get into it is more sited for repeated listenings, not that I would play this album even every third semester. May seem harsh words but really, they come from the heart. Actually , I consider recommending this album to prospective progheads wishing to investigate Monsieur Bungle. Mostly because it is the most accessible of their records but also the least aggressive and the least derivative . In this album, Patten and friends seem to explore (a bit) world music influences ranging from Hawaiian to Arab hints , even touching over the twangy guitar sounds of early 60's surf music on a couple occasions (and also some Doo-Wop music if you can believe that!!!). But as I just a said the influences are better assimilated.
Review by chamberry
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In California you can see that the band has mellowed down a bit after there superb avant-garde masterpice from 1995, Disco Volante.

This album is much less crazy than there previous efforts so this means that this a very accesible and a great album nonetheless. They have definately matured by the end of the album but they still use some weird sound effects in the songs but more sparsely than in there debut. One can also see a variety of influences and different types of music from twist to surf rock to ethnic music and so on but one of the biggest changes in there music is that in this album they're more restrained than in Disco Volante staying with 1 or 2 genres in one song instead of mixing alot of them like in their previous albums so is kind of a tamed beast. It's also more melodic than their previous albums. Highlights are: Golem 3, Sweet Charity, Goodbye Sober Day and Ars Morendi.

I can easily recommend this album to eveyone who likes music since it's a very accesible album concidering this is Mr. Bungle we're talking about. This is a very fun and enjoyable album the same goes for any of their releases. I find California to be better than their debut, but still if you want to know what Mr. Bungle really is then check out Disco Volante.

Review by bhikkhu
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album is ... well it's ... just what the heck is this anyway? Let's say an insane bioengineer crossed DNA with They Might Be Giants, Reverend Horton Heat, Frank Zappa, any given metal band, and threw in some other random elements. This might explain how this band got together. Then again, it may not. All I know is that it's great fun, and I love it.

These guys blend styles seemingly at a whim. However, that can't be the case, because it works so well. There is a definite sense of humor, but this band takes its music seriously (see Frank Zappa). Whether it is doo-wop, rockabilly, or metal crunch, it is all done with care. You will most likely find all of this in the same song too.

Need a diversion from the grandeur of your latest prog opus? This could very well be what you are looking for. You will still be comfortably close to your old standbys so don't worry about losing any progressive cred. I highly recommend this to everyone. It's not pure prog, but enough to get it four stars.

H.T. Riekels

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Mr. Bungle's third and final studio album would be their most restrained, and ultimately most accessible release. The insanity of Disco Volante is now replaced with melodic, catchy, and ultimately fun music that takes cues from surf rock, bubble gum pop, and light jazz. However, there's still some bits and pieces of insanity here and there, they are just spread apart more and they aren't nearly as crazy as previous albums. Despite that, California remains a great last effort from the group, although it doesn't reach the greatness of the previous two albums.

Favorites of mine on this album are the first piece, Sweet Charity, which takes many cues from surf rock and pop of the 60s with lush vocals and a twangy guitar sound that is more addictive than anything else. In fact, most of the songs on this album are in this vein, although you'll find bits and pieces of other drastically different styles here to counteract this one. Other favorites are Pink Cigarette (which makes nods to Ennio Morricone and to a lesser extent John Zorn's nods to Ennio Morricone), and the incomparable None of Them Knew they were Robots, which explores 60s sci-fi soundtrack music with surf rock and quasi-doo wop. Whatever it is, the first two songs on the album are ultimately my favorite pieces, although every song has a magic to it.

In the end, I can't really say that this is the best or most representative Mr. Bungle album. However, it's their lightest most accessible, which may make it a good starting point. Saying that, if you do get this album first, don't expect this to be anything similar to the previous two albums, those albums are much much much more out there and are a lot more experimental than this album. California is a good album, but I'd say it's my least favorite in the Bungle catalog (although I still really enjoy it).

Review by Slartibartfast
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
4 stars I think I know why these guys broke up after 2000 and only three formal studio albums. They must have run out of any interesting musical styles known to humanity to incorporate into their music. Some tunes have a fairly consistent style throughout, but most put you on a bit of a roller coaster ride of musical style. Some styles are not even necessarily progressive except for the simple fact of the quality musicianship and just the audacity of the mixture. Just on the strength with which this one hooked me, I had to put in an order for the other two, sound unseen.
Review by FruMp
3 stars An interesting concept but still MR. BUNGLE's weakest effort.

California (which was to be called Californication but after a long running feud with the Red Hot Chili Peppers they allegedly stole the name) shows a very tame Bungle, reminiscent of 60's surf rock and beach boys type music, it's very stylish and done very well (Guitarist Trey Spruance spent a year mastering it on analog tape) it does convey images of sipping cocktails on a beach but on the whole it isn't nearly as good as the other 2 bungle full lengths and doesn't contain enough good songs to make it a great album.

That said the album does contain some very good songs, None of them knew they were robots is a fantastic song, reminiscent of Dick Dale and showing flashes of Bungles experimental side as well. Air conditioned nightmare is another fantastic song showing some beach boys moments and featuring an amazing chorus with some great tremolo picked surf guitar. 'Ars Moriendi' is the best song on the album, and is something of a throwback to 'Desert search for techno Allah' from their previous album Disco Volante, it features the same middle eastern theme with elements of techno and middle eastern instrumentation, a fantastic song and as I said before easily the best on the album.

The instrumentation on this album is fairly bland for a Bungle album but guitarist Trey Spruance provides some amazing moments with his surf guitar and general versatility and originality, the miscellaneous studio musicians provide most of the other highlights and considering how many of them there are it's something of a shame that they are so under-utilized.

Overall California is a decent and worthwhile album with a handful of great songs worth 3.5 stars (rounded down) but it's a big letdown (or should I say comedown?) compared to the schizophrenic madness of MR. BUNGLES other 2 albums and a lot of the songs are fairly boring and lacklustre. I'd recommend this to anyone who finds early Bungle a bit intimidating and impenetrable, or even anyone into 60's music and surf rock - otherwise I'd say it's better off sticking to Bungle's earlier works.

Review by horsewithteeth11
4 stars I know some people have tried to figure out what influences one can hear in listening to this album or any of the other two Mr. Bungle albums, but I think it'll take a team of nuclear engineers (or a team of several dozen music fanatics) several years to figure that out. Yes, this is probably the most accessible album of the three, but it's still a very good album. It's still chock full of various types of influences, from Zappa to avant-garde to metal, and this album seems to be more focused on vocals than the other 2. It still has the "carnival gone completely insane" fell to it, but to me it lacks some of the punch from...something. It just doesn't feel quite as energized as it has in past with other Mr. Bungle albums. However, for someone new to the group who isn't used to a whole lot of zaniness in their music, this is a good place to start, as it's the most accessible Bungle album. A very solid and tightly composed, but for me it lacks some of the punch that's found in Disco Volante. 4 stars.
Review by MovingPictures07
4 stars This is such an enjoyable album. If you're in a bad mood, try not smiling at some of these! That is, of course, if you enjoy listening to music that would make you appear insane to most people.

1. Sweet Charity- Wonderful atmosphere here with a very demented surf-relaxing feel to it. I really like the opening, particularly when the vocals and keyboards kick in. Patton's accentuated bah-bum vocals also set the ironic, humorous tone to this song. SWEET CHAAAAARIIITYY! Great song. 8/10

2. None of Them Knew They Were Robots- Haunting opening, then breaking into another odd song (But what do you expect from these guys?). This is another really good one and I like the twisted dance feel to it. It again has elements of several genres, including surf, dance, and others turned upside down to create something new and enjoyable. The keyboards here almost remind me of a ghostly type. 9/10

3. Retrovertigo- Ballad in the terms of Patton and the crew. It's a pretty good song, and has more of the bizarre, haunting ironic mood to it. I can feel quite a bit of emotions in this song as well, and the vocals are interesting despite being sung somewhat more conventionally. Patton's vocal noises in this one are absolutely fitting and set an intriguing tone. 8/10

4. The Air Conditioned Nightmare- My favorite track. This song is simply so awesome, from the beginning to end. The vocals range from soulful to downright bizarre, and the mood drastically shifts several times throughout this one. This really conveys the atmosphere of a nightmare and I absolutely love the way this song is structured, the uniqueness it brings with influences of many genres, and it succinctly shows you what this band is all about. And, of course, the lyrics have the word suicide in them. 10/10

5. Ars Moriendi- The art of dieing. Yeah, I can definitely see that. From the bizarre Middle-Eastern intro, this song certainly is a strange one. There's nothing wrong with it, but it is one of my least favorites on the entire album. Typical genius Bungle uniqueness and the songwriting is good. 6/10

6. Pink Cigarette- This is a funny one and quite enjoyable at that. More of a slower track here, this has a demented ballad feel to it, except it's not all that similar to Retrovertigo. It almost has a desert feel (similar to last track) combined with an extremely odd piano-driven pop song in Bungle style. I find this song incredibly difficult to describe. Nonetheless, it's enjoyable and interesting. The female-esque vocals in it are very odd. 8/10

7. Golem II: The Bionic Vapour Boy- This one is one of my favorites. From the opening robot-like toy windup all throughout, this track is more upbeat and has a robotic feel to it. Heavily enjoyable and crafted pretty well! 9/10

8. The Holy Filament- Awesome song once again. This is quite a spooky song, and the piano parts are beautiful. The vocals are ghost-like and are hard to describe. 8/10

9. Vanity Fair- The most hilarious track on here. The whole track comes across as entirely satiric. Patton's vocal noises again here are PERFECT and the mood of this song perfectly fits the concept of it. 9/10

10. Goodbye Sober Day- A very fantastic closer to this album. GOODBYE SOBER DAY! I love the instrumentation on this one especially and the mood changes are intriguing and enjoyable. 9/10

Overall, I hesitate between 4 and 5 stars for this one. In the end, 4 is more fitting, as it is not really an essential masterpiece of progressive music that is for everyone, but it is definitely an excellent addition to any prog music collection. Heavily weird and enjoyable, especially if you're in the mood for it!

Only for the open-minded and insane.

Review by EatThatPhonebook
4 stars 7/10

"California" is one of the funnest albums in a long time.

if there's an adjective that can perfectly describes this album, that would be FUN. Because that's what it is, and what it was meant for, having fun. Mike Patton's third effort with his band Mr. Bungle is very different from all the other previous albums. it's a lot more melodic, and less weird than Disco Volante and the debut. For some this might have been a bad thing, in fact this album isn't too loved, but I think this change of theirs was excellent. So, all the Mr. Bungle albums are different from each other. "California" is a very nostalgic piece of work musically, but it's also an incredibly fresh and original album, and has such an unusual sound, even though, like I said, it's the least experimental album of the band.

Many influences are noticeable: surf music, metal, big band, bluegrass, blues, jazz, avant garde, and some arabic music, but much less than the amount in their previous effort. Mike Patton's distinctive way of singing is indeed in evidence, since he sings many of the songs (he didn't sing That much in "Disco Volante"). As a consequence to all this, "California" might just be Mr. Bungle's most accessible album, so it is pretty much for anyone. some songs are really amazing, they really crab you in a way that the band never really did in this type of way, using melody mixed with some experimentation and avant garde. Honorable mentions are the first track, "Sweet Charity", very nostalgic and melancholic, "The Air Conditioned Nightmare", especially in the middle part, where their external influences are most highlighted."Ars Moriendi", the heaviest song of the album, and has some arabic music influences; in fact, this track can easily be an excerpt from "Disco Volante". Not to forget "The Holy Filament", the most fascinating song off this album. Mysterious and calm in some moments, while in others it's more enlivened. But the medloy, especially in the singed part, always grabs my attention.

Such a fun and fine album overall, I recommend it to whoever likes to have a blast only by listening to music.

Review by Warthur
4 stars California combines the comparatively conventional song structures and occasional mainstream leanings of Mr. Bungle's self-titled debut album with the bizarre laundry list of musical genres brought to bear on Disco Volante (and the two Secret Chiefs 3 albums which had been released in the meantime) in order to craft this delicious conclusion to the Mr. Bungle three-course meal. Songs like Sweet Charity and Retrovertigo lean towards smooth, slick lounge rock, but just when you think you're safe an avant-garde tidal wave like The Air- Conditioned Nightmare surges forth. Perhaps their least metal-focused album, California is still a good listen for anyone interested in a genuinely avant-garde conception of rock music.
Review by Negoba
5 stars Going Out with a Raised Eyebrow and Big Clown Feet

Mr. Bungle was simply the most important progressive rock band of the 90's. Despite a solid group of direct descendents and innumerable artists that have drawn from Bungle's genre-bending, no one has matched their colossal achievement. CALIFORNIA was the final installment in a trilogy of completely different but simultaneously brilliant albums. Gone is the potty mouth of the debut. Absent is the complete avant-garde aesthetic of DISCO VOLANTE. Instead, we get a more mature and accessible album of (gasp) - songs!!!

While lead singer Mike Patton does not have the prettiest voice in rock, he may have the most versatile instrument of all time. And never is he more melodic than on CALIFORNIA. The bombastic opener "Sweet Charity" has a hummable chorus along with vocal percussion accents. Show music, surf guitars, and even klezmer ideas infuse the album and push the metal of previous albums a bit to the side. As a result, this is the "lightest" of the Bungle albums. Rest assured, there are still sections of pure chaos. "None of Them Knew They Were Robots" takes us from a peyote trip in the desert to a night club in Vegas to the Cantina on Tatooine within the space of 30 seconds. Though there are very heavy parts, most of the song is free of guitar distortion. The closer "Goodbye Sober Day" is one of the best pure music tracks I've ever heard. It literally has almost everything. If some asked me "what song do you wish you had written" I would either say "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight" or "Goodbye Sober Day." It's that good.

The extreme eclecticism of this album makes it yet another shock to those who came to Bungle from the metal route via Faith No More. Most casual fans would have jumped ship after DISCO VOLANTE, but even this silly fanboy took awhile to really get into this album. The theatrics and non-rock ethic take awhile. I could also see some coming a jazz / avant angle feeling that sections are simply too "straight." Listening to the full album would destroy that notion, but again this album deceptively listener-friendly in relationship to the band's larger body of work.

I've written more extensively on Bungle in my other two reviews, but the bottom line is that all 3 are essential to understanding the progression of metal and experimental music in general in the 90's. 5/5.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars Although they only released a mere three albums in a span of nine years, MR BUNGLE never repeated what came before and strived to make each album completely different than the last and in the process created three of the most daring experimental albums that the entire 90s had to offer. After four demos that saw the band grow from a bunch of deranged teenagers in Eureka, CA cranking out substandard death metal which led to the funk metal Zappa-infused potty-mouth prog of the self-titled debut, MR BUNGLE caught a complacent world of glam metal and early grunge off guard with its 1991 slap-in-the-face whack job that mixed funk, metal, jazz and even circus music with the avant-garde laced with progressive rock sensibilities. The band continued four years later with its second no limits avant-garde extravaganza "Disco Volante" which threw out all the rules and totally allowed the creative frenzy to explode into a million directions.

The first two albums gleefully flipped the middle finger to the music establishment despite appearing on the Warner Bros. label. The goal was to create unruly difficult listening music that excelled at merging the juvenile unrefined with the technical and progressively infused compositions that adopted as many music genres as possible and made them perform unthinkable acts together in broad daylight. However, with Mike Patton getting his avant-garde noise rock itch scratched not only in Mr. Bungle and Faith No More but he also released solo albums and crafted other projects such as Fantômas which meant that when it was time to record the third MR BUNGLE album, he'd let off a lot of steam and there seemed to be nothing more to prove. In fact all the band members had matured a bit. Trey Spruance had started his spinoff band Secret Chiefs 3 inspired by the track "Desert Search For Techno Allah" and had learned the art of crafting sophisticated melodies and intricate rhythms by fusing Middle Eastern and Indian folk traditions with electronica, heavy metal, surf rock and soundtrack music. Both Trevor Dunn and Bär McKinnon went along for the ride and in the process tamed down a bit.

For the band's third album CALIFORNIA, the band minus Theo Lengyel who left after "Disco Volante" due to creative differences, decided to forge a new path and in the process created the most accessible album of the MR BUNGLE trilogy. Instead of focusing on the goal of creating a cacophonous uproar for the sake of evoking sonic terror with mind-blowing qualities, the band instead shifted gears into the world of progressive pop which crafted intricate melodies and accentuated them rather than taking them to the slaughterhouse. Keeping in line with the band's earlier albums, CALIFORNIA carried on the by-then tradition of genre hopping and extreme fusion but this time everything was polished like the smoothest gem stone and the aim was to make irresistible pop hooks that instantly caught your attention and only then allowed the weirdness to develop organically. Gone were the excessive time signature changes and avant-garde jazz-metal gone wild with references to sexual innuendoes and potty mouth vulgarities. In were lush orchestrated sing-along compositions that included Hawaiian traditional folk, Middle Eastern music, electro-funk, doo-wop, surf rock, circus music, psychobilly, kecak, thrash metal, lounge exotica, space age pop, jazz rock, piano rock and spaghetti westerns.

CALIFORNIA focused mainly on the sounds of 60s with the vocal surf pop of the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean providing the greatest inspiration however this was more like some psychotic alternative timeline gone wrong for 60s pop music and this was MR BUNGLE of course so the brilliant madness had to find more adaptable ways to weave itself around the pop hooks and soulful vocal led lyrics. Once again, MR BUNGLE caught a loyal fanbase completely off guard and in the process alienated the hardcore crowd that didn't appreciate this sugary sell-out music but in the process found a whole new audience who found the first two albums to be nothing but abrasive and vituperative noise. And then there are those like me who find all three MR BUNGLE albums to be beautifully designed masterpieces which when taken in their own context will impregnate the listener with musical ecstasy.

Right from the getgo MR BUNGLE startles the listener who is expecting a throwback to "Squeeze Me Macaroni" or even some spastic jazz, metal or hybrid of the two. Instead it's the sound of seagulls, the ocean and what sounds like the easy listening music of 1960s Burt Bacharach with lush symphonic orchestration and sweet sugary melodies. OMG! What happened? one may ask! Hold on, be patient. Around the two minute mark the melodies start to morph with bizarre key changes and pitch manipulation. Doo-wop backing vocals offer infectious counterpoints and the track while perhaps the tamest on the entire album is quite beautifully designed. An odd opener for sure but perhaps it serves as an inoculation to the stylistic shift so that the rest of the album sounds more dynamic. Things pick up with the second track "None Of Them Knew They Were Robots" which picks up the tempo immediately with what sounds like rampaging zombies trying to break down the door but then morphs into country western swing music with exotica along with some surf rock and psychedelic rock organ runs. The horn section cranks out some cool big band swing while Hawaiian slack key guitar and organ runs finish the job.

"Retrovertigo" is the ballad of the album with the slowest tempo and the track that is the least affected by the avant-garde regalia that only grow in intensity beginning with the fourth track "The Air Conditioned Nightmare" which also starts out as a ballad but after a soulful performance by Mike Patton ramps up the speed and sounds like a battle between 60s Beach Boys vocal surf, the space pop of Joe Meek along with some occasional metal guitar heft and percussive drumming outbursts. The track ratchets up the morphing of various genres sharing the stage. "Ars Moriendi" begins with guitar heft and then finds a violin cranking out a Middle Eastern riff. The album is fortified with 14 session musicians who add English horn, cello, violin, viola, accordion, trumpet, harmonica, pedal steel guitar, French horn, cymbalom, piano, timpani, tam tam and bass drum. The album is extraordinarily rich in various timbres that add the extremities that make up for the lack of the excesses of the past. Back to "Ars Moriendi," the track goes through several stages with a Mediterranean cafe styled accordion mixing with the violin, a heavy rock guitar as well as surf rock and cartoon music. A true MR BUNGLE classic if there ever was one.

"Pink Cigarette" tackles the 60s spaghetti western sound obviously inspired the soundtrack music of Ennio Morricone at first but then becomes a tender ballad sort of track with odd little sounds inserted here and there except that the subject matter tackles the morbidity of suicide which finds a horn replicating one of those machines at the hospital that show the heartbeat and ends in that "they're dead!" sound. "Golem II: The Bionic Vapor Boy" is the weirdest track on CALIFORNIA. It begins like a futurist A.I. robot ballet version of the Nutcracker with a windup music box sound and then proceeds into electro-funk with robot vocals and interesting bouncy grooves alongside freaky musical scales creating utterly bizarre soundscapes. It's just all so friggin cool how they juxtapose sounds to create a larger sum of the parts! "The Holy Filament" is more reflective with piano arpeggios ushering in heavenly vocals except that the musical scales are dark and ominous. "Vanity Fair" is more jocular with a bouncy old time rock and roll feel with doo-wop backing vocals and a rather gospel-like vocal performance by Mr. Patton.

One of my favorite tracks is the closing "Goodbye Sober Day" which starts out with a rock and roll style like a late 50s prom along with heavy percussion from those serrated sticks you rub. The track morphs several times, first into a slow contemplative keyboard driven kind of lounge exotica and then eventually drifts into a mass Gregorian chant that itself cedes to a thrash metal guitar accompanied by a performance of Indonesian monkey chants and then makes full circle back to the opening style before ending the album and leaving the listener wondering once again what just happened! While the first two MR BUNGLE albums were chaotic and unpredictable and often random, CALIFORNIA is cohesive with every single element existing in a logical location and cyclical loops with recurring themes and a melodic connection are what gives CALIFORNIA its magic mojo. Ironically the album was scheduled to be released on the same day as the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their album "Californication" and thus was delayed a week because of the long time feud between Mike Patton and RHCP lead singer Anthony Kiedes.

As far as i'm concerned, MR BUNGLE hit a home run three times in a row. The band is a legend and one of my favorite artists of all time. They made the impossible seem effortless as they crafted three distinct albums that all stood on their own two feet and didn't even have to blow away the competition because there wasn't any! MR BUNGLE existed outside of known time and space and therefore exudes an otherworldly demeanor that would make this stuff weird anytime and anywhere. The genius of these guys is that they utilized the sensual sensibilities to appeal to your emotional state while bedazzling you with artistic wizardry and unthinkable juxtaposition of styles and sounds hitherto unheard. This would be the end of the line for MR BUNGLE as they wisely chose to retire the brand name and focus on their retrospective solo careers. Trey Spruance was already finding success with the Secret Chiefs 3 and Mike Patton continued his restless pursuit of the next avant-garde sounds in dozens of other projects. CALIFORNIA is yet another masterpiece by the crazed kids from Eureka. Nobody saw that coming.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The theatric-cabaret stylings of these songs are so wonderful and refreshing, I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't be entertaining and enjoyable for any and all listeners. Roll the cinematic music of Elvis in the 1950s with big band, klezmer, Dick Dale, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and you might get something like this music.

1. "Sweet Charity" (5:05) theatric in an almost cabaret way, but flush with catchy and smiley melodic and quirky hooks. Great song--very memorable in a 1960s kind of way. (10/10)

2. "None of Them Knew They Were Robots" (6:03) amazingly entertaining! Even without hearing the lyrics (I can't help but catch a few of the shocking non-sequiturs), I just love this song! (10/10)

3. "Retrovertigo" (4:59) acoustic guitar and Fender Rhodes piano set the stage for a slow song. Singers join in on multiple levels, the lead being mostly a whispery high male--until, at least, the chorus--then, at 1:44, one of the background singers steps forward to deliver in a full tenor. The music stays slow and simple, almost nursery/lullaby-like, until 3:17 when a big wall of sound comes crashing in, with power chords, amped drums, choral vocals, and everything. (8.75/10)

4. "The Air-Conditioned Nightmare" (3:55) Straight out of a BEACH BOYS/ELVIS beach movie soundtrack. What fun! Is it parody or serious? Very interesting and clever vocal delivery with different vocalists injecting each word of the lyrics in places. Then, at 2:07, it moves to a saloon of the Wild West before returning to the beaches of SoCal. (8.75/10)

5. "Ars Moriendi" (4:10) Arabian melodic riffs with Middle Eastern/European instrumentation opens this one before letting everything go fast-paced crazy (in a very organic Arabian way). Pure craziness abounds! (8.75/10)

6. "Pink Cigarette" (4:55) parodying the early rock'n'roll themes and styles popularized by a California-caucasion element of the 1950s and early 60s. Clever but not really amounting to much for me. (8.25/10)

7. "Golem II: The Bionic Vapour Boy" (3:34) could be from the soundtrack of a Hitchcock or Peter Sellers or Danny Elfman movie. Interesting, entertaining, very quirky and off-the-wall, and, perhaps, quite ingenius. Take David Byrne's quirk and multiple it tenfold. (8.5/10)

8. "The Holy Filament" (4:04) dark and dramatic, the soundscape of the opening is incredible! The big deep bass chords off-set by upper octave piano notes is used to awesome effect! Then strings enter in the second half followed by male vocal choir. So cool! (9/10)

9. "Vanity Fair" (2:58) sounds like something from Peter Cetera/CHICAGO from the mid-70s. (8/10)

10. "Goodbye Sober Day" (4:29) Fully representational of the title, this was probably a lot of fun for the band to create, but it does little for me, other than slightly entertain. (8/10)

Total Time: 44:08

Perhaps this is where bands like HUMBLE GRUMBLE, PINK MARTINI, and PINK LEMONADES got some of their inspiration.

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of highly theatric musical entertainment.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Review #153! Five stars five stars five stars five stars five stars! I had no idea that tis band was on Prog Archives! I've been listening to Mr. Bungle for a while, and never knew this. I feel angry at myself. Anyways, this album is perfect, as their entire discography is. This is the d ... (read more)

Report this review (#2977485) | Posted by Boi_da_boi_124 | Wednesday, December 27, 2023 | Review Permanlink

5 stars *chef's kiss* Masterpiece! Mr. Bungle's third record is a milestone for avant-garde, with it's insane uniqueness and creativity. It's a very short album but each track is packed with multiple time signature changes, tempo changes... and various elements that you can find in avant-garde. Sometime ... (read more)

Report this review (#2584663) | Posted by Ian McGregor | Monday, August 9, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars After listening to this album for 5 years, I can safely say that it most definitely a masterpiece of experimental/progressive rock. It took me a year to fully appreciate as when I first listened to this, I was a huge metalhead. But something about Mr Bungle clicked with me, and I definitely fe ... (read more)

Report this review (#719519) | Posted by rustytheginge | Monday, April 9, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Mr Bungle: Prog? No; progressive? a most emphatic yes. Whilst not as boundary breaking and sonically experimental as their 2nd release, 'Disco Volante', 'California' stands out as an incredibly solid piece of work that draws inspiration from many sources. It would be easy to dismiss this album bas ... (read more)

Report this review (#191594) | Posted by Paul T | Wednesday, December 3, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars There's only a few albums that always works; whatever mood you're in. This is one of those albums. The unquestionable joy it expresses when you uplifted. And the wierdness and variety of feelings, when you feel blue. The album kicks of with seaguls and the flowing of water which is Sweet Char ... (read more)

Report this review (#171145) | Posted by meetmehere | Friday, May 16, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Where's my halo? There's my halo! There are some albums that are a blast to listen to. This is one of them. There is no need to focus on the intricate details of any meaning of this album because knowing the track record of Mr. Bungle, there probably isn't one. This is a delightful compilation ... (read more)

Report this review (#162082) | Posted by moreitsythanyou | Monday, February 18, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Mr. Bungle are even more insane, over-the-top, hilarious, and crude than most of the any earlier RIO or Avant-garde groups. This, however, is not as crude as their previous two releases. The band, known for flowing from countless styles of music within mere 5 minute songs, have eased up on the gen ... (read more)

Report this review (#132112) | Posted by Shakespeare | Monday, August 6, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is a MUST OWN. Guaranteed to blow your mind with it's vibe-precise production techniques & the most vivid & exciting music arrangements your are likely ever to hear. I love alot of Patton related stuff, but this to me is the most focused & elevated output of any of his 'projects'. This ... (read more)

Report this review (#41500) | Posted by | Thursday, August 4, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 4 1/2 stars here. Mr Bungle is the most creative band I ever heard. These guys are simply genious. On this album, you can heat them mixing some african music with heavy disto guitar riff, or enjoy a pretty interlude to the beach before to get into a catchy and very interesting refrain. You can ... (read more)

Report this review (#31109) | Posted by | Thursday, April 7, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The most acessible Mr. Bungle album out there. This is not to say that it is a bunch of songs that don't change after a minute or two; it's just not a random and sparatic as "Disco Volante." This album also begins with a beach/surf song. It's very nice for a opener, and the album gets even bet ... (read more)

Report this review (#31106) | Posted by Spanky | Wednesday, December 15, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The first Mr. Bungle song ever permitted to infect my frontal lobes was Ars Moriendi. From the first hearing, I was both shocked and overjoyed that any band could be so irreverent towards the conventions of contemporary music and, at the same time, demonstrate such panache. No-one since Zapp ... (read more)

Report this review (#31105) | Posted by | Friday, October 1, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Not knowing what to expect after the enormous mind**** of Disco Volante, I picked this up and took to it immediately. This incarnation of Patton and company once again mash several styles together, though the overall feel is more laid back than the earlier Bungle stuff. Personal favorites incl ... (read more)

Report this review (#31104) | Posted by | Wednesday, July 28, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A little different to what Mike Patton & friends did before. First there was the funk & rock influenced "Mr Bungle", afterwards that there was Disco Volante, the chaotic and exceptionally hard-to-listen-to album (if you're a psycho yourself) and then there is this one: California. This las ... (read more)

Report this review (#31103) | Posted by | Monday, May 31, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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