Two Albums that Crowned a King
Although their sales were relatively weak compared to previous albums – remember when a major label album selling a million copies was considered weak? – 1995’s King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime and 1997’s Album of the Year are fan favorites that cemented Faith No More’s cultural status as alt-metal monarchs. Given the genre’s quietness in 2016, the re-release of these two albums couldn’t be timelier for those who need a fix.
King for a Day is notable for its downright smorgasbord of different genres. While this aspect caused critics to deride the album as unfocused at its release, it won the band many fans, who felt as though they were getting three or four bands for the price of one. The album’s opener, “Get Out,” is unsurprising, but furiously satisfying. Pulsing electric guitars complement screeching vocals that are reminiscent of black metal, although not quite as harsh. Then, the band switches things up. “Ricochet,” one of the album’s singles, is a slower tune, featuring more accessible instrumental harmony and Mike Patton vocals that are restrained enough for him to sing them at a Denny’s without getting kicked out.
However, it was these explicitly jazzy, funky overtures of King for a Day that shocked audiences and short-circuited the pea brains of contemporary music critics. If the whole album was full of tracks like “Evidence,” one might guess the band was from New Orleans. The pretty piano and seductive strings caused certain hardcore fans to accuse the band of going soft. Such fans should accept that being happy is not the same as being weak.
Those fans were overjoyed when Faith No More followed this release up two years later with the far more straightforward Album of the Year. As opposed to its predecessor, when Album of the Year deviates from alt-metal song structures, it is usually to close musical bedfellows like hard rock and punk. “Collision” turns the intensity up to ten right out of the gate, urging you to fuck off if you can’t hang on. It is very accessible for those who find this type of music accessible.
The album reaches dizzying heights early on with the roller coaster ride that is “Last Cup of Sorrow.” While the philosophical ethos of the album could be described as “there is beauty in darkness,” that of “Sorrow” is more akin to “there is beauty in violence.” A bell section that sounds surprisingly like wind chimes functions as a lifesaver to which the listener clings to get themselves through the aggressive guitars, dark bass and creepy vocals, which sound as if they are coming through a radio from the The Twilight Zone.
This is not to say that the album’s energy is homogeneous. “Mouth to Mouth” alternates between the nu metal vibes the band inspired and crowd-pleasing pop. Also, anyone who listens closely will be rewarded with Faith No More’s eccentric sense of humor, evidenced by song titles such as “Naked in Front of the Computer.” While this track most likely prompted remarks of “I wish I had a computer” in 1997, it is now an accurate description of the way many people listen to the track in 2016.
Which of the two albums a listener prefers says a lot about his or her taste in music. Those who prefer Neapolitan ice cream over individual flavors and don’t blink at the combination of metal and jazz will have their socks so thoroughly knocked off by King for a Day that NASA will likely discover them orbiting Neptune. Those who listen to Faith No More albums as a way to release all of the pent-up energy and frustration that Pam from Accounting has produced will gravitate toward Album of the Year.