Sunday, July 15, 2007

Faith No More

Chuck Mosley

Back from vacation and what better way to start off than with a dilemma that has haunted me for years. The debate between Chuck Mosley era Faith No More and that of Mike Patton. Personally, I was a huge FNM fan under Chuck Mosley. We Care a Lot and Introduce Yourself were both mainstays in my listening rotation and continue to be so today. Chuck, while certainly not the better singer of the two brought a roughness that served the band well in the recording of their initial two lo-fi albums. They mixed metal guitars and pounding beats with synthesizers and were fronted by a guy who really couldn't sing much. But I loved it. They had essences of funk/rap without ever losing their hard rock base. What Chuck lacked in melody, the band made up for in their songs and Chuck was simply often the narrator. It worked beautifully.

The Real ThingPrior to recording their major label debut, The Real Thing, Chuck was replaced with Mike Patton based on a demo from a side project, Mr. Bungle (who would later ink a deal with Warner Bros. no doubt due to the success of FNM under Patton). It was with tepid anticipation that I awaited the release of The Real Thing, and it was with shock and initial disgust that I first listened to each track. The new record was polished and much more slickly produced, and most shockingly, the nasal baritone of Chuck Mosley has been replaced by a new nasally higher pitched voice; one that I immediately rejected. The sound and vocals were such a significant departure from what I had been listening too. And suddenly, I began to see them on MTV (they used to play videos and even had live performances from time to time) and hear them on my local mainstream radio stations. After a number or listens, I finally realized that TRT is a tremendous record. Superior production didn't have to mean inferior songs.

Angel Dust
Next came Angel Dust. There was a lot of pressure to follow TRT, which had become a surprise success. By this time, I had become used to and completely accepting of Mike Patton. For me, Angel Dust is still my favorite FNM record. I find it darker and in some ways heavier than TRT and even though dissatisfaction with his use and the direction of the band would ultimately lead to the departure of, the always recognizable, Jim Martin, this remains their best work as far as I'm concerned. It is an odd album to say the least punctuated by some heavy hitters, pop influences, a white-trash ballad, and closing with a cover of the Theme from Midnight Cowboy.

FNM release several records after Angel Dust, but without Jim Martin's presence they often seemed more like Mr. Bungle releases under more branded name. For those unfamiliar with the music of FNM or for those needing a refresher course, I offer the following samples from both eras in chronological order.

Chuck MosleyMike Patton
Why Do You Bother (We Care A Lot)From Out of Nowhere (The Real Thing)
Greed (We Care A Lot)Zombie Eaters (The Real Thing)
As The Worm Turns (We Care A Lot)The Real Thing (The Real Thing
Faster Disco (Introduce Yourself)Caffeine (Angel Dust)
Chinese Arithmetic (Introduce Yourself)Midlife Crisis (Angel Dust)
RNR (Introduce Yourself)A Small Victory (Angel Dust)
Blood (Introduce Yourself)Ricochet (King For a Day...)
Spirit (Introduce Yourself)Last Cup of Sorry (Album of the Year

So this is the question I pose to you dear reader. Nobody can deny the success that FNM experienced under Mike Patton, but does their success outweigh the groundwork laid by the band fronted by Chuck Mosley. For me the answer is no. I still prefer the earlier looser sound of the first two records. Please vote in the poll located on the left sidebar just under the Legalese (Yeah I know if it currently impossible to read the choices, but I am working on it - in the meantime, Chuck Mosley is naturally listed first with Mike Patton under him) and as always feel free to leave a comment below.