San Francisco Chronicle Datebook June 1, 1997

San Francisco Chronicle Datebook June 1, 1997


by Steffan Chirazi

**** out of *****

Album of the Year

In naming its seventh release "Album of the Year," Faith No More might be attempting both self-congratulation and humor. Actually, the group may simply be telling the truth.

Since it's formation in 1982, the Bay Area quintet has been progressing consistently in its bid to make significant musical points. The band enjoyed multiplatinum success with 1990's "The Real Thing" and the MTV hit "Epic," events that led to unfair comparisons to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

In 1992, Faith released "Angel Dust," a stormy, dark and discordant collection of songs ahead of its time, despite the fact that it sold more than half a million copies in the United States. Its last effort, "King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime," saw the band struggling without guitarist Jim Martin and the virtual nonappearance of keyboardist Roddy Bottum. The stark, flat recording was poorly received.

Rumors started to circulate that the band would split up, as Bottum enjoyed success with fellow locals Imperial Teen, enigmatic vocalist Mike Patton embarked on a variety of projects and drummer Mike Bordin signed up to play with Ozzy Osbourne.

All this makes the mere existence of "Album of the Year" a solid achievement.

Faith No More's finest work always seems to come when the band is in turmoil; significantly, "Album of the Year" was not easy to make. In fact, two completely different sets of material had to be fashioned before the album was done.

Co-produced by Faith bassist Billy Gould and French producer Roli Mosiman (The The, Young Gods), "Album of the Year" has balance, poise, aggression and potential hits. Mike Patton's vocal work is outstanding, with genuine singing emerging from his more guttural bursts. Also, the welcome return of a more involved Bottum restores the full dimension of the band's sound.

Faith No More's trademarks appear subtly all over "Album of the Year": the little melodic flutter during the opening spaces of "Stripsearch," the dramatic keyboard platforms in the first single, "Ashes to Ashes," and the cheesiness of the smooth, soulful "She Loves Me Not."

The band also returns to the bitter aggression of some of its previous material. The thrust and demented melody of "Naked in Front of the Computer" and the ballistic energy of "Got That Feeling" both illustrate that Faith No More is still capable of a violent outburst or three. The musicians even manage a severely twisted late-night cocktail of a song, "Home Sick Home."

After "Album of the Year," it would be nothing short of criminal if the band decided to call it quits -- although it may be its refusal to take anything for granted that will allow Faith No More to continue making albums this good.

Thanks to Heather Leigh Kennedy.

Source: Heather Leigh Kennedy
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