Faith No More
Live at the Brixton Academy, London: You Fat B**stards / Who Cares a Lot? Greatest Videos (Rhino)
by Tim Den
It’s impossible for me to write a non-biased review of Faith No More because I believe that they were the greatest band to’ve ever grace this god-forsaken Earth. But this is not the time nor place for me to present indisputable evidence of their unparalleled genius: A two-DVD reissue doesn’t exactly call for a Ph.D thesis on the way this band’s almost comic-of-errors lifespan somehow created not only some of the most rhythmically and melodically monolithic works in history, but proved that sometimes – sometimes – the cosmics can put together the most mismatched personalities and make them produce magic. No, that would be longwinded (ha!) and all too time consuming, so I’ll just move forward with the understanding that everyone agrees with me. Good? Good.
As the title implies, this DVD set collects two of Faith No More’s out-of-print VHS releases in one. Most notable is Who Cares a Lot? Greatest Videos, as it chronicles the band’s transformation – visually, aesthetically, mentally – over the years. There are two clips from the Chuck Mosley era (“We Care a Lot” and “Anne’s Song”) – prefaced by soundbites of the band members laughing at the way they looked in those early days – but mostly it’s all about ’89 and on. Sure, there are gawdy moments (“From Out of Nowhere,” despite being an incredible song, looks like a Skid Row live clip. Color spandex!? Come on, Patton!), but as time goes on, the maturity and uniqueness that slowly seeped through the band’s pores become more and more unbelievably overwhelming. I remember seeing the world premier of “Midlife Crisis” and being absolutely, thoroughly blown to bits by what I saw and heard. Ominous, sensual, haunting, experimental yet addictive stalker of a song with vocalist Mike Patton chopping up words in mid-sentence to accentuate the song’s already hydraulic groove. Even then, with the first album on which Patton was a fully contributing member (the groundbreaking Angel Dust), it was already blindingly obvious: This band had no rules. They would never stay still. Further entries from this record: “A Small Victory,” with its lavishly rich visuals and dance club samples; “Everything’s Ruined,” a perfect example of the members’ love for nonsensical fuck-offisms; and “Caffeine,” a live performance that shows the band dangerously on the edge of self-destruction because of their momentum. No two songs are the same, no two videos the same, and everything equally brilliant.
The continuing progression would last till the band’s demise in ’98, as detailed by videos such as the suave “Evidence” from King For a Day… Fool For a Lifetime and the tribute to Vertigo of “Last Cup of Sorrow” (from Album of the Year). Especially notable are “Stripsearch” and the Bee Gees cover “I Started a Joke.” The former, shot on a specific Eastern European film in order to emanate a certain greenish glow, is a thriller of the highest caliber. The latter, in which the band does not appear at all, takes a comical scene from working class British nightlife and turns it into a surprisingly romantic and universal statement about life and love. The fact that the song features an inconceivably grandiose vocal performance by Patton doesn’t hurt, either. Again, nothing ever the same, nothing ever short of pure gold.
The only complain I have about Who Cares a Lot? Greatest Videos is the same one I had when I bought it on VHS: Why no “Ricochet?” Granted, it wasn’t a special video, but it would’ve been nice to have it included so as to be comprehensive. Otherwise, this collection is about the best sample platter of Faith No More’s works as you’re gonna get. Cuz not only are you showered with their unique songs, but the accompanying visuals really give you a sense of who they were at each stage of their existence. And not to spotlight one specific member yet again, but the most dramatic change occurs in Patton: A spazzy 19 year-old when he first joined the band, he grows from a long-haired surfer kid into a renaissance man before your eyes. Watch as he develops his now trademark stage presence: The staccato lurching and swinging of limbs (“Midlife Crisis,” “Caffeine,” “Digging the Grave”), the random inclusion of everyday gestures (brushing teeth in “Easy,” giving the okay sign and buddy punches in “Evidence”), and, of course, the unwavering charisma in fronting this beast. It’s a shock, then, to watch …You Fat B**tards, as Patton then was still a hyperactive ADD kid, making way too many “funny/weird” faces for the material to be fully enjoyable in hindsight. So the audio and camera work are fantastic, but almost the entire set is dedicated to The Real Thing, the album before the band came into their own. It would’ve been nice if “The Crab Song” – which the band did perform that night (check Youtube) – replaced either “Woodpecker From Mars” or (yuck) “War Pigs.” At least the crowd is going apeship and you get “As the Worm Turns.”
Watching both of these DVDs not only further cemented my belief that Faith No More were gods (not that I needed further proof), but reminded me of a time when a band’s music and behavior could radically change the landscape. Faith No More made waves by featuring exploding marine life and blood-soaked emergency room clothing in their videos. Nothing shocking by today’s standards, but of a spirit that is sorely missed. When was the last time you witnessed a band creating music from the heart that was challenging yet engaging, and were weird as fuck (but inspirational) just by being themselves? These days, everything is an act. Everything is calculated and pre-planned. Faith No More were of a rare breed, a bunch of honest-to-god weirdos who shouldn’t’ve been in a band together, splitting apart the heavens with their awkward chemistry and fucking with everyone’s heads (particularly journalists, ha ha) in the process. Sure, the repercussions would cost them commercially and personally, but the art was worth it. Thank you, Faith No More, for being the ultimate role model in unwavering artistic vision. You are not forgotten.