Retro Review: Faith No More – Angel Dust (Slash/Reprise)

By: Jesse Striewski

I was no stranger to Faith No More before owning their dark swan song Angel Dust; prior to owning it, I had already collected copies of their 1985 debut, We Care A Lot, as well as their 1989 breakthrough effort, The Real Thing. But as soon as Angel Dust came across my radar, I was hooked.

I can even remember the day I first got it; I was still in high school, and had to ride my bike to the pawn shop I found it at (along with some Danzig and Monster Magnet CD’s thrown in the mix, too). I also remember trying to hurry home before a thunderstorm hit, and to this day I can’t listen to the album without picturing those overcast Florida skies.

Lead singer Mike Patton reportedly spent many nights hanging around bus stops and diners, people watching in preparation for the songwritting, and it shows. The funk-driven “Land of Sunshine” kicks off the madness, with Patton giving his best infomercial salesman try, proclaiming at one point, “Here’s how to order!” This is followed by the thrash-esque “Caffeine,” which the band performed live that year for an MTV taping. The album’s first single, “Midlife Crisis,” continues things with Patton’s menacing whisper-vocals layering over an eerie keyboard riff from Roddy Bottum, with bassist Billy Gould and drummer Mike Bordin’s pronounced rhythm section leading the way.

The jazzy “RV” almost comes off as upbeat, if not for the it’s depressing trailer park anthem lyrics that Patton mumbles in his most sinister way possible. “Smaller and Smaller” continues deeper into the void, complete with some of Gould’s best bass work over top of aboriginal chanting. In contrast, the poppy “Everything’s Ruined” proceeds things on the lighter side, and is one of the most underrated singles from the album.

“Malpractice” is arguably one of the sloppiest songs on all of Angel Dust, and never quite finds its footing. But things quickly get back on track with the macabre-sounding “Kindergarten,” which looks back on lost playground memories. “Be Aggressive,” Bottoum’s ode to oral sex, follows and features a cheerleading squad spelling out the chorus, highlighting the absurdity of it all.

“A Small Victory” is without a doubt one of the finest pieces of music found here, and could have easily ended the album. Featuring some of Jim Martin’s best guitar work, it should’ve been a massive hit when released as a single, but barely made a dent on the charts. A beautifully constructed song from start to finish indeed.

“Crack Hitler” and “Jizzlobber” are on the sillier side, but have their own unique merits when in the proper mood. And the instrumental theme from “Midnight Cowboy” always seemed like an odd choice to end the album on, but is yet another example of its overall experimental nature.

Angel Dust would prove to be the band’s final output with Martin on guitar, who claimed to even hate the album’s title from the get go. Despite its dark tendencies, it was praised at the time by critics, many even calling it “album of the year,” which would ironically be the name of their next album’s title four years later. It’s unfortunate they would never have the chance to catch lightning in a bottle the way they did here again, but for that one moment in time, Faith No More gave us a brief flash of genius.