Mr Bungle, by Mr Bungle
Reviewed by Bryan Connolly
So, time for the temps to give Craig a birthday breather, and here I am first up, so no pressure…
Shortly after I volunteered to do a guest slot I realised that I don’t actually have Spotify Premium or Amazon Music unlimited account, so thought I may have to stop being a cheapskate and perhaps start a premium trial at the very least. Fortunately when the VBA Gods threw up my slot and album, I realised I was OK. The eponymous Mr Bungle would be hiding in my massively disorganised CD racks. For context, I used to buy a lot of CDs and still have most of them, aside the odd bit of attrition from car thefts, party lightfingeredness and the like.
Step one was to dig it out from the mass, as in honesty, it’s not had a play in a while. Appropriately enough for this album, rather than being neatly catalogued by band name, genre, emotional impact on my life etc, my racks are currently pretty much random bar a couple of clusters of albums from the same artist – I used to take pics of random selections to lightly trigger more organised folks. I say appropriately enough, because the blend of styles on this album is rather eclectic to say the least… I believe the band name is taken from a a character in a sort of public information film for kids about good manners, but we’re not going to learn how to behave politely here children…
This album used to live in my car pretty much constantly for odd plays and also if I was giving people a lift to say, a Magic the Gatherering event, and they didn’t chip in for petrol, the “scary clown album” stayed on until a couple of quid was forthcoming. Please don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible, just the mix of styles isn’t to everyone’s taste. I was actually curious to see how well it’s aged. Anyway, we’ve had the travelogue, time to get to the recipe.
We launch into this mixture with Travolta. Pick any section at random and you could be listening to FNM on powerful medication (hmm, remind me again who Mr Bungle’s vocalist used to play with…) early King Crimson or a passable death metal band. The relevant lyric nearly 30 years after release that leaps out is “With his mouth sewn shut, he still shakes his butt cos he’s Hitler and Swayze and Trump and Travolta.” There was a video… That’s all I’ll say on the matter.
Slowly Going Deaf brings us to early RHCP jazz, funk and even a whiff of Tangerine Dream with a metal backbone holding it all together. We stay on a funky vibe for a while, with rap, thrash and vanilla metal in Squeeze me macaroni (not to mention some lyrical practices that would ensure your food hygiene rating would be firmly placed at 1, with the council wanting a word.) By this point, much of the album was flooding back. I’d somehow forgotten how bizarre this was in places.
By track 4, Carousel, we’re in danger of ceasing musical exploration, so let’s up the strange fader on the lyrical content, and sure, let’s throw in some Ska for flavour, because at this point anyone still listening is clearly up for anything.
Egg continues to blend styles in an amazing fashion in a 10 minute journey through genres which remains on of my favourite tracks on this undertaking. The ability to switch tempos, keys and genres so effortlessly speaks volumes of the talent of these dudes.
Stubb is funk/thrash/ska’s sonic equivalent of Marley and Me. That’s probably a family friendly way to put it. My ass is on fire brings things back to a generally heavier ground, with some mildly disturbing interludes, but wow, the vocal range on Patton on this track…
The Girls of Porn, not an offering to play for the vicar when he’s round for tea, but those horns! The next offering, Love is a Fist still has those cheeky horns, but we’re almost into early Anthrax territory for flavour. We also have some random almost poppy interludes.
It’s worth noting at this point that I refer to many bands throughout, but that’s purely in an attempt to give you a frame of reference, the Mr Bungle sound is truly unique.
We’re nearly there folks, fear not.
While the whole album is very special, Dead Goon is one of those closers that reminds you how versatile these guys are, that they can basically play any style they fancy, so let’s throw some circus style music, do things with a bass that Victor Wooten would say were pretty fair and come full circle into prog land albeit in a disturbing way.
Overall, it’s an extraordinary album with effortless musical talent that’s not put across in a “look how clever I am” way. The vocals alone… It’s genuinely challenging to score, as many people will simply loathe it. For me, I’m glad to say I’ve rediscovered a great long lost masterwork that has aged amazingly well.
My personal score is an 8/10, but HEAVILY caveated that your results may vary spectacularly. I know my missus would loathe this, and I’ve horrified a number of people over the years with this (but then again, its recovered the cost of a lot of petrol.) If your preferred listening choice is old recordings of Sing Something Simple, give this one a miss.