Faith No More’s return with the brilliant ‘Sol Invictus’ album was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2015, a potent reminder that the San Francisco band remain one of the most inventive, singular talents in our world.
Few bands have so successfully transitioned from the alt. rock underground to festival headliner status with their integrity intact, and the Californian quintet’s ongoing success is a welcome reminder that it’s entirely possible to retain a subversive, maverick spirit while operating at the forefront of the music business. That Faith No More are arguably best known to casual music fans for their straight-faced cover of the Commodores’ R&B classic Easy must only serve to reinforce their cheerfully misanthropic view of humanity, but even committed fans might not be aware of some of the excellent curios tucked away in their rich, rewarding back catalogue. Here’s 10 choice cuts from the mavericks’ vaults…
NEW IMPROVED SONG (1988)
Faith No More’s final recording with mercurial frontman Chuck Mosley, New Improved Song was originally released on Sounds Waves 2, a free vinyl seven-inch EP (also featuring The Jesus and Mary Chain, Head Of David and The Godfathers) given away by the now defunct UK music paper Sounds in 1988. An out-take from the Introduce Yourself sessions, recorded by Matt Wallace, the song is an embryonic version of what became the superior The Morning After on 1989’s The Real Thing album.
THE PERFECT CRIME (1991)
Bridging the gap between 1989’s The Real Thing album and 1992’s Angel Dust, The Perfect Crime – released on the soundtrack to Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey in 1991 – served as an early indicator that Faith No More’s assimilation into the mainstream rock world would not soften their abrasive, twisted aesthetic. “Boy hears teacher’s words so he closed his eyes and stepped in front of a train,” sings Mike Patton, tagging a cheery “Woo!” onto the end of this dark visual, just for shits and giggles.
SWEET EMOTION (1989)
If you’ve checked out The Perfect Crime above, this FNM rarity might sound naggingly familiar. First released in demo form on a free seven inch flexi-disc (also featuring It Goes On by cult Scottish rockers Balaam and the Angel) given away by Kerrang! magazine in September 1989, Sweet Emotion is an out-take from the studio sessions for The Real Thing, later re-moulded into The Perfect Crime. Patton’s lyrics here (“The bitterness inside your heart, it shows through in your eyes and you can’t win in the end”) are no less bleak than on the remake, you’ll doubtless be pleased to hear.
**AS THE WORM TURNS (1985)
**One of the stand-out tracks on Faith No More’s debut album We Care A Lot, As The Worm Turns was re-recorded with Mike Patton on vocals during the studio sessions for Angel Dust, and was first released as a bonus track on the Japanese version of the album. Both versions of the song are excellent, but Patton’s version manages to be simultaneously more commercial and more aggressive.
A SMALL VICTORY R-EVOLUTION 23 FULL MOON MIX (1992)
A relic of a by-gone age, back in the 1990s, record companies were fond of farming out rock singles to dance producers to remix in the hope of securing ‘crossover’ plays in clubs and on radio. Most dance artists treated the commissions as money for old rope, but Killing Joke bassist Martin ‘Youth’ Glover’s hypnotic re-interpretation of this Angel Dust-era classic actually brings something fresh and appealing to the original.
LET’S LYNCH THE LANDLORD (1992)
Recorded for the Alternative Tentacles label compilation Virus 100 (which also featured contributions from Napalm Death, Sepultura, L7 and more) this cover of the Dead Kennedys’ classic features a gloriously sleazy, Elvis pastiche vocal from Mike Patton and an irritatingly jaunty accordion riff from Roddy Bottum. “Let’s Lynch The Landlord was recorded in my bedroom,” bassist Bill Gould told Billboard magazine in 1993. “We got the worst drum set I could find, I have a stand up bass and an accordion and we used the worst microphone.” Nice attention to detail there gentlemen.
DAS SCHÜTZENFEST (1993)
Even by Faith No More’s warped standards, this is a particularly bizarre and peculiar entry in their back catalogue. Recorded as a polka, with lyrics sung entirely in German, Das Schützenfest is the sweetly romantic tale of a man who seduces a young lady at a Bavarian shooting party and proceeds to make love with her in a pig barn. That the track appeared, alongside Easy, on a 1993 EP titled Songs To Make Love To makes it all the more special, obviously.
EVIDENCE (Spanish Version) (1995)
One of the highlights of the King For A Day… Fool For A Lifetime album, the jazzy, finger-clicking, cabaret-lounge schmaltz of Evidence was pretty damn sexy in the first place, but when re-recorded in London with Mike Patton singing in Spanish (for an Argentinian edition of the album), it’s a whole new level of scorchio. Patton has also been known to sing the song live with Italian and Portugese lyrics too, the smooth, sickeningly-talented bastard.
SPANISH EYES (1995)
As with many of the cover versions tackled by FNM (see also Easy, War Pigs, Deep Purple’s Highway Star) it’s not immediately obvious whether this faithful take on the easy listening standard made famous by ‘60s crooner Al Martino (and later performed by Elvis, Engelbert Humperdinck and Willie Nelson, among others) is a piss-take or a loving homage. Whatever the intentions, released on the B-side of the 1995 single Ricochet, its sure to raise a smile, as Patton affects his best smarmy lounge singer intonation over a lush strings and brass arrangement.
SOMETHING FOR THE GIRL WITH EVERYTHING (1997)
Faith No More’s collaboration with oddball New Wave/art pop duo Sparks on a re-make of the LA band’s 1974 hit This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us made the UK Top 40 in December 1997, but Sparks’ seventeenth studio album Plagiarism also featured the two California bands (who were connected via guitarist Dean Menta serving time in both acts) teaming up for a less celebrated re-tooling of the deliciously demented Something For The Girl With Everything from 1974’s Propaganda album. Interestingly, Roddy Bottum told Time Out New York that FNM actually recorded a third song with the Mael brothers in 1997, but that rarity has yet to see the light of day.