Edited by Brett Buchanan
If you try and describe Faith No More’s blend of music, it’s beyond certain that lead singer Mike Patton will go and screw up your theory with their next release. FNM have been tearing up the rock n’ roll rule book ever since they formed over 30 years ago. They have a guy on drums, Mike Bordin to you, The Puff to band members, who thrashes his sticks every night like it’s his final show. And on guitar Jon Hudson has riffs that make his guitar literally bleed. On bass Billy Gould always seems like he’s having the most fun out of everyone, and on keyboards is the ever lovable Roddy Bottum. Vocals are managed by the one and only Mike Patton. He has to have one of the greatest vocal ranges in music history. He can go from death metal, to funk, jump to rap and then 70’s soul without missing a beat.
The band continued to inspire with each new record, and after they split in 1998 it seemed that we had witnessed the last of their crazy antics. However, a decade later they reformed without promising us too much, and certainly with no commitment to the immediate future. But all that changed after the band released their new album this year, Sol Invictus. It was warmly met and meshed well with some of their great past records into one without giving up the individuality of what Sol Invictus was all about. The record was followed by a European festival tour and a U.S. tour, amongst other shows, and everything was deemed a huge success. Faith No More still have the gift that has been embedded in them since the 1980’s.
The Sol Invictus tour looks like a wrap for this year, and with FNM you never know what will happen next. Hopefully they will stick together and manage their solo careers at the same time. Next year offers no plans of more shows, but you never know. However, to celebrate what may be the end of their latest tour, here is a list of the 10 greatest Faith No More songs ever recorded. Now there are a couple of rules. The first is that no songs have been included that are on movie soundtracks or B-sides, just studio releases. Trust me, putting together a top 10 list of their songs has been a difficult task, without the added problems of some of their glorious non studio tracks. The second rule is that all songs must have been originally recorded by Mike Patton. Sure Chuck Mosley is well loved and for good reason, but we have to remember that Mike has really shaped this band and has been the lead singer now for 26 years.
10. SEPARATION ANXIETY (Sol Invictus)
Arguably the best song on the band’s latest record, “Separation Anxiety” is in your face and is a real throwback to the Angel Dust days of Faith No More. Bottums’ ghostly keyboards, Patton’s high voice and Hudson’s guitar, which feels for the most part like a spinning wheel into a downward spiral, is spot on. The song has featured in almost all of their 2015 live shows.
9. HELPLESS (Album of the Year)
Album of the Year, which would be Faith No More’s final studio recording up until this year’s Sol Invictus, was recorded at bassist Billy Gould’s home studio. The album received mixed reviews when released, but it has slowly garnered acclaim through the years. “Helpless” is arguably the stand out track, however even though it was suggested as a single release, that never came to fruition as the band would break up in 1998, the following year.
Helpless tells of somebody that feels utterly alone in the world and just wants someone to notice them. Patton sings” “I even tried to get arrested today, but everyone looked the other way.” Helpless was never going to be radio friendly with a whistle as a chorus and a scream from Patton of ‘HELP’ repeatedly which ends the song. However it is an outstanding song that unlike some of the other tracks on the album has stood the test of time.
8. THE GENTLE ART OF MAKING ENEMIES (King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime)
This song is all about two moments: The opening guitar riff change, with due credit to then guitarist Trey Spruance, who never toured with the band for this record, but was part of the recording process. Then of course there are the many changes in Patton’s voice. The softly spoken deep laconic tone at the songs beginning, followed by the demon like possessed Patton half way through the song. Then another shift in tone when we get to the fourth verse where Patton sounds more recognizable. This song live is one of the band’s many highlights and usually creates a pit of some kind. The very first lyrics are open to interpretation of course, but the following: “The words are so familiar all the same greats, the same mistakes it doesn’t have to be like this”, seem very relevant to Kurt Cobain who of course committed suicide just a year before this record came out in 1995.
7. THE REAL THING (The Real Thing)
Considered a classic song and played hundreds of times, usually as a show opener, “The Real Thing” is a monster. Starting off incredibly slowly and silent, the song grows and grows until it builds into a frenzy, but never gets completely going and isn’t meant to. It is what you want it to be but could well be described as a personal achievement or finding something in your life that is pure and authentic. However the most surprising aspect of “The Real Thing” is its lyrics. Deep, meaning and poetic may sound cliché, but when you consider that Patton was just 21 years of age it is a surprise because it feels as if it has been written by a person twice his age.
6. JUST A MAN (King for a Day, Fool; for a Lifetime)
The final track to be heard on King for a Day, “Fool for a Lifetime” would throw fans a little, with a slow beginning and Patton almost singing us a lullaby. But just when the verse repeats and we aren’t expecting a chorus, the song goes through one of the mighty middle 8’s and gives us one. “And every night I shut my eyes so I don’t have to see the light shining so bright I’ll dream about a cloudy sky, a cloudy sky.” The song at that point turns into one of FNM’s most special, perhaps most accessible songs for newcomers in their back catalogue. The song finished off complete with a backed choir as it finally just fades out. “Just a Man” has proved to be a crowd favorite for many years and still, after 20 years is played.
5. EPIC (The Real Thing)
The song that launched the Patton era of Faith No More, and spearheaded the band into everyone’s living rooms via MTV. The video seen today looks goofy, and the band have moved a million miles away from the tune that is “Epic.” However, the song has remained a rock classic. It’s like a huge piece of bubblegum and energy that resists to be stopped. “Epic” is the one staple song that is always played during live shows. And it’s particularly interesting to see how Patton changes up the vocals on the song, but with Hudson replicating that Jim Martin riff so well, it is a song that cannot be turned into anything else. It will always be “Epic.” A head banger’s wet dream, but this song sums up the band perfectly when the end comes by way of Roddy Bottom’s dreamy piano outro.
4. CRACK HITLER (Angel Dust)
Crack Hitler starts off like the opening to a 1970’s cop show and then hits us with that familiar keyboard, Bordin then kicks in with the sticks and Patton sounds almost inaudible until the chorus. “He’s the one no doubt walking on a tightrope.” The song is based on a drug dealer that the band knew. Billy Gould once said, “Crack Hitler is about this drug baron who takes Crack and compares himself with Hitler, because he commands enough depended people. So he thinks he’s the biggest one…you know what’s funny about all this? His skin is not even white! He’s colored and he thinks he’s Hitler? We all laughed a lot about him, so we had to dedicate him a song.”
3. MIDLIFE CRISIS (Angel Dust)
The Puff’s drums in the intro are one of the most recognizable moments in rock music from the 1990’s. Quickly followed by Gould’s bass, “Midlife Crisis,” which appeared on Angel Dust, is perhaps the most radio friendly song on the album. So it was no surprise that this song was given a single release and a video to boot. Arguably “Midlife Crisis” contains the band’s most catchy chorus and is always a crowd favorite and thus a staple of the bands setlists each night.
2. CAFFEINE (Angel Dust)
One of the heaviest songs on the Faith No More back catalogue, Jim Martin’s guitar, which was held back for much of Angel Dust, gets to rip here, and he doesn’t let this opportunity go to waste. Patton screams, and Gould, Bordin and Bottum hold the groove together. “Caffeine” was written during Patton’s sleep deprivation experiment whilst writing lyrics for this album. A firm non believer in hard drugs, a route that Patton could have easily chosen, the only drug choice for him was, and is, Caffeine.
1. EVERYTHING’S RUINED (Angel Dust)
The highlight of a superb album, “Everything’s Ruined” can be interpreted to mean a number of things. One theory is that the song is about capitalism and families in particular who push their young kids on to the career ladder before they can experience their youth. Patton’s soul destroying lyrics at the end don’t have a happy ending either: “But he made us proud, he made us rich but how were we to know, he’s counterfeit now everything’s ruined.” The video to the song couldn’t be any more different to the lyrical content, with the band messing around in front of a screen showing random pictures. That is until you stop and think that videos back in the day cost around $250,000 to make. Capitalism? The band went the other way and made the cheapest looking video in their career.