“You want it all and you can’t have it. It’s in your face but you can’t grab it.” Remember that song? Remember the band who did it? That’s right. Faith No More. “Smiling with the mouth of the ocean. Then I’ll wave to you with the arms of the mountains.” Remember that song? No? That’s also by Faith No More.
“I don’t mind the sun sometimes, the images it shows. I can taste you on my lips and smell you in my clothes.” Remember that song? Remember the band who did it? That’s right. The Butthole Surfers. “I saw an x-ray of a girl passing gas. The one shot theory got a query things got rolling at last.” Remember that one? No? That’s also by The Butthole Surfers.
“All I can say is that my life is pretty plain. I like watching the puddles gather rain.” Blind Melon, right? We’ve all heard that one. “Oh, I’ll do anything that you say, but I wish you would stop spitting when you’re talking to me. I’m talkin’ to myself more.” That one you’re probably not familiar with, but it’s…you guess it…Blind Melon.
I think after reading the title of this post and the first three paragraphs, the astute readers in our audience will know what I’m getting at here. There are a lot of bands out there that are considered “one-hit wonders”. Some of them deserve that title because, frankly, the rest of their catalog really isn’t worth the hassle (I’m looking at you, Dexy’s Midnight Runners). But for some of these artists, those of us that bought “that” album for “that one song” found a bunch of album cuts that were just as good or better than the song the band was known for. And then we stuck with those bands, snatching up their subsequent albums while the rest of the world ignored them because their sound strayed from the song that got them famous.
Dear readers, I’m not here to scold you for not being familiar with these artists’ work. That would be incredibly hipsterish of me. We have precious little time in life, and we have to choose what albums we want to kill an hour with wisely. What I want to do is shine a light on the works of a handful of “one-hit wonder” bands who have an impressive body of work that you may or may not know about. And I hope you’ll take my word for it because diving into their discographies is definitely worth it.
Let’s begin this journey with one of my all time favorite bands: Faith No More. The vast majority of people only remember them for the “If the Red Hot Chili Peppers Mated With Metallica” hit song “Epic”, and maybe some of those people remember their cover of “Easy”, originally by The Commodores, which was a minor hit in 1993.
They are also considered one of the influences on nu metal with the rap/funk/rock crossover of “Epic”. While the Korns and Limp Bizkits of the world cite Faith No More as an influence, the band members themselves shake their heads at the connection. “Epic” was not indicative of their sound. In fact, that’s the only song on that album that features any rapping from singer Mike Patton. The rest of the album is an amalgam of different genres. They go pop on “Falling To Pieces”, they go metal on “Surprise! You’re Dead!”, they go prog-rock on the title track and “Zombie Eaters”, there’s the instrumental “Woodpeckers From Mars” which I don’t even know what the fuck to classify as, and there’s the sleazy lounge music closing track “Edge of the World”. Another thing to note about this album is Patton’s vocal style. While Mike Patton was miles ahead of previous vocalist Chuck Mosely, Patton still sounds lost on his first major label album. His delivery is somewhat nasally and whiny compared to the mature, deeper vocal stylings on subsequent albums. Mike Patton stepped into a somewhat already established band and was still looking for his voice. Released just as the singer reached legal drinking age, “The Real Thing” might not be the best album to start a newbie on Faith No More as Patton’s delivery seems immature compared to what came later.
Many bands try to follow up their breakout album with an album that tries to copy the formula that worked the first time. Faith No More didn’t give a fuck about that with their “Angel Dust” album. Stylistically, the album bears very little similarities to “The Real Thing” with the exception of Billy Gould’s slap bass on a few choice cuts and Jim Martin’s metallic guitar work. “Angel Dust” is darker, more aggressive, and all around weirder as noted weirdo Mike Patton began to have more say in the band’s musical direction. Also, Patton’s voice had matured into the Patton we know today, abandoning the nasally whine found on “The Real Thing” for a crooner that could also sound like a demon from hell.
Honestly, you should really check out the entire album because it’s one of the best alternative metal records ever made, but if you just want to dip your toes into the water before jumping in, try the album’s lead single “Midlife Crisis”, which samples Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia”, and the poppy “Everything’s Ruined” for the more accessible tracks from the album. From there, you can get into the almost hardcore metal of “Caffiene” and “Malpractice”, or if you want to get weird, check out the trailer park tale “RV” or the unclassifiable “Crack Hitler”. And just because they’re a band that likes to fuck with their audience, the album ends with a straight take on the theme from “Midnight Cowboy”.
Having shed most of their “Epic” audience, and losing founding guitarist Jim Martin, Faith No More once again changed things up on their next album, “King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime“. This album is like their “White Album”. Almost every song tackles a different genre of music. There’s straight ahead hard rock (“Get Out” and “Digging the Grave”), sexy lounge music (“Evidence”), jazz you’d expect to hear from the Saturday Night Live house band (“Star AD”), country (“Take This Bottle”), and even gospel (“Just A Man”).
If you’re looking to introduce someone to Faith No More, “King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime” is probably your best bet. The album contains enough straightforward rock songs to lure in rock fans, and just around the corners are genre exercises that ease the listener into the more experimental nature of Faith No More.
The “one-hit wonder” tag stung Faith No More’s albums after “The Real Thing”. While they were still highly respected in the metal scene, they hadn’t been on mainstream or MTV’s radar for years. Creatively, the band was starting to get spent as well. Their final album, “Album of the Year“, shows the band starting to spin its wheels. The only album in their catalog that sounds similar to another one, many shades of “King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime”, their swan song still has some of their best songs. The three singles released from the album, “Ashes To Ashes”, “Last Cup of Sorrow”, and “Stripsearch” all deserved more attention than they got. “Ashes To Ashes” is a mid-tempo rock with a huge, soaring chorus. “Last Cup of Sorrow” is also in the mid-tempo range, but it has some creepy bells in its main riff that will get stuck in your head. “Stripsearch” is a rare experiment in electronic music for them that pays off beautifully. “She Loves Me Not” is their shot at writing their own soft rock similar to their covers of “Easy” and “This Man’s In Love With You”, and it works well enough. “Mouth To Mouth” shows Faith No More introducing some of the carnivalesque sounds of Mr. Bungle into Faith No More.
The band broke up after touring their album for a number of reasons: creative burn out, lack of attention from radio and MTV, increased interest in their side projects. The band broke up amiably and went their separate ways. Patton would record one final album with Mr. Bungle and move forward with supergroups Fantomas and Tomahawk, drummer Mike Bordin became Ozzy Osbourne’s full time drummer, keyboardist Roddy Bottum focused on his side project Imperial Teen and dabbled in film scoring, and bassist Billy Gould founded Koolarrow Records, showcasing talent outside of the English language. For Faith No More fans, this was the end. We all thought the band had run its course, and being men of integrity, they wouldn’t reform for a cash in.
Then the impossible happened. In 2008, Faith No More announced a series of reunion shows, mostly at European festivals. Since tensions were still present with founding member Jim Martin, the band decided to bring back “Album of the Year’s” guitarist Jon Hudson. The reunion came about at Roddy Bottum’s wedding a few months before the reunion. The band members recognized the special chemistry among them and decided to start playing together again just to see if it felt right. It did, and their festival appearances were well received. After touring on and off for 6 years, the band finally announced they were working on new material. Playing 30 year old songs only gets you so far, and the band was hungry to get creative again and have some new songs to play for their newly expounded fanbase.
And now, 18 years since “Album of the Year”, and nearly 8 years since their reunion, the mighty Faith No More have returned with a new album, “Sol Invictus“, that bucks the trend of reunited bands releasing shitty albums (Hi Pixies! Hi Soundgarden!”) This isn’t an album of shit they cobbled together just to have another reason to tour. This is a strong album that can proudly stand next to the band’s previous works without feeling like an afterthought.
Recorded secretly between breaks in the band’s tour schedule, this album sounds undeniably like Faith No More but also isn’t a retread of previous albums. It feels like what a Faith No More album would sound like in 2015. The first single was the polarizing “Motherfucker”. A departure so far, even for a band known to take as many left turns as possible, that left half its fanbase saying, “Huh?” with the other half embracing it with open arms because we know better than to expect “Epic Part 2”. With verses sung by keyboardist Roddy Bottum, the track is a moody piece that doesn’t quite sound like anything FNM has done before. It almost has a gothic feel to it. Mike Patton doesn’t even come in until the chorus, but his first line, “Hello motherfucker!” is the most Faith No More-y way of reintroducing themselves to the public. Second single, “Superhero”, is much more in tune with what we expect from Faith No More. With descending piano lines reminiscent of the “Angel Dust” and pummeling, guitar heavy verses that sound like a combination of “Get Out” and Patton’s Tomahawk side project, “Superhero” restored the faith (no pun intended) of the fan base. Yes, they’re fucking back.
Listen now on Spotify!
The rest of the album sounds undeniably like Faith No More yet still different enough to feel like its own thing instead of a continuation of a previous album’s sound. Highlights include “Matador”, a slow burner that starts off with a sinister riff and builds into one of the band’s heaviest songs to date. “Rise of the Fall” alternates between spaghetti western sounding verses to soaring choruses. “Separation Anxiety” has schizophrenic verses which builds up to an outro that is certain to have concert goers bouncing.
So, there you have it. “Angel Dust” is an essential album that any music lover should own. “The Real Thing” has that song you know but is also a strong album from start to finish. “King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime” is a dame fine album showing how diverse the band could be. “Album of the Year” was a respectful final bow for the time. “Sol Invictus” is the sound of a band reinvigorated, hungry to prove themselves to a new generation.
Faith No More is currently on tour in support of “Sol Invictus”. The band has not a proper tour of the United States since the “Album of the Year” album cycle, and they’ve been selling out dates left and right. Old school fans are showing up next to younger kids who are wondering about this band that influenced many of their favorite artists. If they have a tour date near you, I strongly recommend you bite the bullet and check them out. These guys are all in their late 40s and early 50s, yet they perform with more energy and passion than bands half their age. They’re not in it for the money. They’re back because they have a special chemistry and have something new and exciting to bring to fans of their previous work. Bonus: Their opening act is post-hardcore band Refused. If you’re not familiar with them, check out their song “New Noise” and thank me later.
(Yes, I realize that they had two albums before “The Real Thing” but that was with Chuck Mosely on vocals, and that guy sucks. “We Care A Lot” is the only essential song from his years. Otherwise, just check out the songs from those era in live clips with Mike Patton on lead vocals instead.)
Here is a Youtube playlist of choice cuts from Faith No More. No, “Epic” isn’t on there. You’ve heard that one a million times already. It’s a great song, but that’s just taking one piece of pepperoni off of a pizza and not enjoying the whole thing.