Faith No More: The Complete Guide

Exploring the band's engrossing catalogue...

If you only know two Faith No More songs, they’re probably the once omnipresent rap-rock prototype ‘Epic’ (1989) and their hit version of ‘Easy’ (1993) – and they certainly don’t sound like providing enough substance to build an entire career from.

Delve deeper, however, and you’ll find that the San Franciscan quintet spent much of their initial six-album career flirting with genres and switching without notice from sweet to savage. The eternal rumours of a new album have again recently surfaced, but for now we’ve run through their back catalogue ahead of their show as special guests to Black Sabbath at London’s Hyde Park this Friday (details).

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‘We Care A Lot’ (1985)

Some debut albums find bands wearing their influences a little too blatantly, and Faith No More’s ‘We Care A Lot’ rarely deviates from their initial desire to breed PiL with Killing Joke. Nonetheless, plenty of the band’s hallmarks were already on display, notably Mike Bordin’s tribal-leaning percussion and Roddy Bottum’s “the longer the note, the more the dread” approach to keyboards. Chuck Mosely, the replacement for the then-unknown Courtney Love, tops the sound with his characterful-if-monotone vocal delivery and bitingly sarcastic lyrics. The production could be sharper and the songs certainly lack consistency, but the original version of the title track as well as ‘Why Do You Bother’ and ‘As The Worm Turns’ demonstrate some early potential.

‘We Care A Lot’ (1988 single version)

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‘Introduce Yourself’ (1987)

Admittedly Mosley’s vocal range is limited, but he certainly has something unique going on throughout the band’s second album. For a man who later released a solo album titled ‘Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food’, Mosley’s style is an oddly engaging acquired taste. It’s more of a relentless rhythmic chatter rather than a rap, but his quirky gothic lyrics – and especially the spoken-word sections on ‘Death March’ and ‘The Crab Song’ – are utterly distinctive. The material demonstrates a greater knack for dynamics and hooks with ‘Chinese Arithmetic’ being a standout of the Mosley years and a re-recorded ‘We Care A Lot’ (see the video above) providing the band’s first minor hit. Greater metallic punch from guitarist Jim Martin and Billy Gould’s increasingly common diversions into slap-bass would both prove to be regular traits over the following two albums.

‘Anne’s Song’ (1988)

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‘The Real Thing’ (1989)

By the time of the third album, Faith No More had jettisoned Mosley and replaced him with Mr. Bungle’s Mike Patton, who joined the album’s process when most of the songs had already been written, leaving his writing contribution to lyrics only. Evidently a vocalist with greater technical skill than Mosley, Patton hadn’t yet found the voice that would later serve him so well and sang with a nasally, bratty high-pitch that would rarely surface on later albums. The result was a bigger sound with Bottum’s energising keyboards making ‘From Out of Nowhere’ their most immediate pure rock song, the title track their most openly progressive, and the half-rapped hit ‘Epic’ setting the tone for what would later be known as nu-metal. A faithful cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ and the sheer aggression of ‘Surprise! You’re Dead!’ only emphasised their crossover appeal.

‘From Out Of Nowhere’ (1989)

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‘Angel Dust’ (1992)

As the band finished work on their next album, the president of their record label visited the studio, heard the results and concluded: “I hope nobody bought houses.” Almost lunatically different from their previous hit album, ‘Angel Dust’ went in weird and wonderful directions including a Tom Waits-style trailer trash approximation (‘RV’), a track which sounded like a soundtrack to a sleazy seventies cop show (‘Crack Hitler’) and an unlikely mash of keyboards, cheerleaders and oral sex (‘Be Aggressive’). Patton’s vocal versatility saw him switch from a croon to a growl at will, while Bottum’s use of samples and increasingly prominent keys almost swamped the guitar riffs. For all its personality disorder sonic adventures, it’s a cohesive work that ends, conversely, with a straight cover of John Barry’s ‘Midnight Cowboy’ theme.

‘A Small Victory’ (1992)

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‘King For A Day... Fool For A Lifetime’ (1995)

The sacking of Jim Martin lead to a Spinal Tap of a revolving door of guitarists as Mr. Bungle’s Trey Spruance recorded ‘King For A Day…’ but then chose not to tour. After the originality of ‘Angel Dust’, the band’s fifth set highlights a greater range of genres in a more obvious collection of songs with a handful of relatively straight rockers punctuated by jazzy soul (‘Evidence’), ironic country (‘Take This Bottle’) and the sprawling title track in which Patton extends from Right Said Fred whisperings to a piercing scream. Perhaps deliberately contradictory, it’s a collection that encompasses random yelping about scatological desires on ‘Cuckoo For Caca’ as well as the band’s most underrated moment when the already dazzling ‘Just A Man’ hits the biggest of finishes with the help of a gospel choir.

‘Evidence’ (1995)

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‘Album Of The Year’ (1997)

While Faith No More’s other albums were marked progressions from their predecessors, their final work feels more of a step sideways with at least a third of the songs possessing a previously hard-to-pinpoint FNM sound and others merely being competent rather than inspiring. It still surprises on occasions, with ‘She Loves Me Not’ coming across like a Boyz II Men pastiche, but it’s still best when the combination of melody, aggression and doomy keys comes to the fore on ‘Ashes To Ashes’ and ‘Last Cup Of Sorrow’. Those tracks matched the best of any of their prior work, but it’s ‘Stripsearch’ that’s the ace in the pack: atmospheric bass-heavy trip-hop taken to a fresh realm by new guitarist Jon Hudson’s climactic biting riffs.

‘Stripsearch’ (1997)

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Everything Else

Faith No More’s excursions into lounge covers were usually at least interesting: The Commodores’ ‘Easy’ was the biggest hit (and was later added as a bonus track to ‘Angel Dust’); a take on Bacharach and David’s ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’ provided Patton’s finest pop vocal; and their take on The Dead Kennedy’s ‘Let’s Lynch The Landlord’ is one of the oddest interpretations that you’ll ever hear. Collaborations with other bands – Sparks (‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us’ and ‘Something For The Girl With Everything’) and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. (‘Another Body Murdered’ from the Judgment Night soundtrack) – were of the love ‘em or hate ‘em variety. In terms of live material, any pro-shot post-reformation video will feature a wider representation of their back catalogue than the one official stop-gap live album, 1991’s ‘You Fat Bastards: Live At The Brixton Academy’.

‘This Guy’s In Love With You’

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Words: Ben Hopkins

Faith No More play London’s Hyde Park, with Soundgarden and Black Sabbath, on Friday July 4th. Details. Find the band online here

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