Forget ‘Epic’ and Mike Patton. Sure, it lived up to its title, absolutely. As did the album it came from The Real Thing. And Patton was a great frontman if very much in Anthony Keidis fanboy mode. But for those of us that were actually there, this is the real ‘real thing’ Faith No More album, the one that truly broke the mould and introduced the rocking world to the Sound of the 90s three years ahead of time, and two years before the Red Hot Chili Peppers finally found their groove with Mother’s Milk.
At Kerrang! we had been warned they were coming ahead of time by Our Man Newly-Arrived in San Francisco, Steffan Chirazi. “You’ll like them, they’re great,” he said. “And their guitarist looks just like Krusher.” Steffan had told the band something similar, arranging for them to come and visit us all at the office, which they did, along with their Krusher-lookalike guitarist ‘Big Sick Ugly’ Jim Martin, from where we took them to the pub where we stayed all day. Yes, kids, that’s how things were done on Kerrang! back in the 80s.
When a few days later I had them as guests on my weekly Sky TV show, Monsters of Rock, Jim was too hungover to make it – so I suggested we substitute him on the set with Krusher – and the band immediately said yes! These days that seems such tame shit compared to the goings on of the young YouTube stars and the horrible old wankers of reality TV. Back then, in the Thatcher-ridden, Reagan-rocked 80s it was a revelation. So I was already kindly disposed towards the band before I’d seen them actually play.
Then I saw them play. Dingwalls, was it? I think. Then a couple of nights at the Marquee. I remember the place was packed. Word was out. This was not only the real real thing but the hot new real thing. You had to be there or live with the fact you had never been close.
The band had three major things going for them. One, the music. Rock meets rap meets synth-based space-rock meets street poetry meets skateboarder chic meets heavy metal grace meets a giant gargling with nails wearing a tutu. This had NOT been done before. Not like this. It was absolutely positively futuristic. Beside it, everything else suddenly sounded hideously old and out of gas.
Two, they had ‘Big Sick Ugly’ Jim. Fucker ate riffs like donuts and shat them out like rainbows. Fucker rocked at a time when everyone else bar Metallica was simply posing. It came as no surprise to learn that Jim Martin and James Hetfield were beer buddies and would often go out shooting their shotguns in the woods together.
Three, they had CHUCK MOSLEY. For me, easily the best, most exciting, most intriguing, most deeply unpredictable frontman of the 1980s. Forget Axl Rose, Chuck was something else. He was black, he was white, he was bald, he had dreadlocks, he could sing, he couldn’t sing, he was a South Central LA-born street rat brought up in an orphanage and unlike Mike Patton, there was no one else in the world could do what Chuck did. The rest of the band hated him because he just did not give a fuck. No, not one of those assholes who tell you they don’t, one of those dudes who you don’t realise has your number until they’ve already fucked your chick and driven off in your car – not cos they like it but so’s they can sell it later.
I remember coming home early from a holiday on an Italian island, in the summer of 1988, specifically so I wouldn’t miss Faith No More at the Town & Country Club in London. I did not regret it. They started the way most bands started their encores, with the place already insane, the band already much higher. And they just kept climbing. For the real encores, Chuck came on in a gold tinsel wig, alone, just him and an acoustic guitar – they’d been fighting backstage, didn’t want him to do it – to sing ‘Life’s A Gas’ by T. Rex. Epiphany. Then blast off as the rest of the band joined him for a version of ‘War Pigs’ that made the original – which Ozzy had also started doing again that summer now Geezer was in his solo band – taste like old farts and string vests.
Of course the album couldn’t live up to all that. Not unless you could give a record six stars. Back on terra firm again, cold light of day, ashes in your mouth, piles bleeding. Yet it was still the most forward-thinking, genuinely groovy, blissfully exciting, difficult to get into the first 10 times, then impossible to stop listening to for the next 100, album of the decade. No arguments allowed.
I was gonna go through some of the tracks – ‘We Care A Lot’, ‘Faster Disco’, ‘Chinese Arithmetic’, ‘Death March’, to name just the obvious – but as I’m sitting here listening to it I just can’t quite manage to keeps the words in any kind of right order. Which tells you something right there. For the truth, I’m sticking up a link below. Listen, behold, cover your ears, peek through your fingers, and imagine the alternative reality that exists in which the band don’t chicken shit out and fire Chuck – and then later Jim. Ye gods, what the fuck were they thinking! (Same as all the other bands who hate each other, actually.)
End times music.