Faith No More's Disappointing Return to Music

The artwork for Faith No More's first single in 17 years, "Motherfucker."
The artwork for Faith No More's first single in 17 years, "Motherfucker."

In 2009, I was a hardcore fan in a state of bliss. I saw Faith No More was reuniting and I probably shrieked like a little girl imagining seeing them perform live. Truth be told, they have long been one of my favorite bands, but given their career trajectory I never once imagined they'd reunite. When they did, it came as a total shock.

It could have been for the money. After all, the ensuing tour was a cash cow. But these guys were always restless artists of the highest order. Could you even imagine Faith No More sitting around in a room without magic happening? Well, it finally did. Here we are, 17 years later, and they've finally released new music. The unfortunate part, though, is that their first single comes out of the gate sounding less like a punch to the face and more like a band in search of its sound.

"Motherfucker," their first song after all these years and the first single from the group's as-yet-untitled new album (due out early next year), was an opportunity to not only reintroduce Faith No More to their loyal fan base, but give them a new start with a generation of fans who have grown up worshiping bands that shamelessly ripped them off.

Past singles have stunned from the start and made sure we knew who Faith No More were. Consider a song like "Midlife Crisis" as an explanation in brief; a way to present Angel Dust to fans in its most base form before you get into the more challenging deep cuts on the record. Each album largely followed that formula, with "Digging the Grave" from King for a Day and Album of the Year's "Last Cup of Sorrow" introducing their respective records in the same way.

Faith No More's last album, Album of the Year
Faith No More's last album, Album of the Year

However, Album of the Year is important to remember when considering "Motherfucker," because it found the band in flux. It was easily the weakest album the band released with Mike Patton, and showed them wearing down. While it was still experimental, it seemed lost in the shuffling clash of late-'90s sounds. If Faith No More had survived, perhaps they could have adapted better to the changing landscape, but Album of the Year didn't give fans much hope.

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But for all its flaws, the record still contains some stellar songwriting. For all the dated tricks and turns it takes, it's hard not to admire Patton's vocal perfection or the catchy hooks and choruses that abound on the record in between bizarre attempts to meld then-modern electronic influences with metal.

Now, "Motherfucker" finds the band 17 years older, but not much wiser. For all the time that has gone by, for all the individual members have done apart, and for all we as listeners have experienced since, "Motherfucker" still sounds like the band that wrote Album of the Year in 1997, searching for their sound and their soul amid a changing musical landscape. It sounds like 1998.

Story continues on the next page.

 

Mike Patton with Tomahawk during the intervening years.
Mike Patton with Tomahawk during the intervening years.

All the tropes are there. The dated electronic influences that hung heavy over Album of the Year. Mike Patton's soaring vocals only appearing in an alt-rock chorus-and-bridge combo grabbed straight off King for a Day, and in choral harmonies. Then there's the awful spoken-word/rapped vocals from keyboardist Roddy Bottum that make up the majority of the track's lyrics.

It sounds like an experiment. A decent one, maybe, but little more than filler on an album like Album of the Year, bolstered perhaps by stronger, more conventional tracks. Unfortunately, because this is the first single, this is all we have to go on.

As an introduction to Faith No More, or to a new album, it's a complete dud. This doesn't make me excited for new material from one of my favorite bands, people I consider artistic geniuses. This certainly wouldn't draw in anyone who didn't already have the utmost faith in the band to begin with.

As a continuation of their career, I have to wonder exactly what the statement is, because it still sounds like the same band in 1997, who had largely forgotten why they were who they were and what on earth they were doing out there. Hopefully the rest of the album sounds more like the headstrong, confident Faith No More of years past.

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