Thursday, January 18, 2007

In Defense Of: Faith No More

Sandwiched in between Glam Metal and Nickleback-style Post Grunge, horrendous rock music took a brief foray into the world of Rap Metal. Noisemakers such as Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, Biohazard, Kid Rock, and, those cheaters Limp Bizkit bombarded airwaves, high school locker rooms, and fraternity parties everywhere. The lack of talent collectively possessed by these bands was truly appalling. Yet, young folks in need of inspiration to “break stuff” were able to overlook the sheer awfulness of this musical movement and mosh in their living rooms. As it goes with every genre of music, the end resembled the beginning on an esthetic level, but not on a musical one.

In this case, the beginning was Faith No More. I’m sure some would try to say that Aerosmith and Run DMC doing a video together was the genesis of Rap Metal, but I would say that was more Rap Blues. Calling Aerosmith “Metal” is a bit like calling Shaquille O’Neal an actor. They may have a Metal name, but they’re really a fat, black center. Thanks to Jim Martin’s crunching, edgy guitar work and Mike Borodin’s pounding beats, Faith No More was undeniably Metal, despite Roddy Bottom’s orchestrated synthesizer strings. After going through a series of vocalists, their first true frontman was Chuck Mosely. While Chuck does truly sing on some of the songs from those first two albums, all of their strongest early tracks featured Chuck rapping. When he crooned, he sounded more like a drunken Wesley Willis.

Faith No More would have most likely just been another solid, California band had they not chosen to kick Mosely out. The result of that move was to pick up 20 year old Mike Patton. On their next release, The Real Thing, Patton continued Mosely’s rapping style, but also displayed his superior chops. See below. It’s Rap. It’s Metal. It’s Fat Dr. Dre and Ed Lover:

The Real Thing was a landmark album, and the songs still hold up today. It featured by far their biggest hit in “Epic” (yes, the one with the fish). They went on to top that effort with Angel Dust. A creative masterpiece whose lyrics covered such topics as blow jobs, redneck suicidal fathers, masochistic masturbation, and “Crack Hitler”. On those two albums, they managed to perfect the Rap Metal genre. And while Rage Against the Machine managed to give it a solid go, recording two fairly good albums themselves, no one else even came remotely close to what FNM accomplished.

Many of their followers like Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock have claimed Faith No More as an influence, and ended up seeing far greater commercial success than Faith No More ever attained. The public was inundated with garbage from carpetbaggers with no discernable musical ability. Jim Martin was kicked out of the band, and their style became less distinctive. Patton would later show off his remarkable talent in various endeavors, but never really return to the style that put him on the map. Now they are largely remembered as the band that led to late 90’s awfulness. If they can be condemned for anything it is that their forays into the bizarre tacitly endorsed lyrics that seem unimportant, allowing songs like “I’m a Cowboy, baby,” to become massive hits. But that’s hardly their fault. All they did was make the two best Rap Metal albums before anyone else even got started. Talented bands chose not to go there because there was nothing left to prove. So we ended up with garbage.

PS – if there’s anyone who believes Kid Rock is anything but a talentless carpetbagger, check out The Polyfuze Method sometime – if you can stomach it.

1 comment:

Scene-Stealers said...

I'll go even farther and say that FNM was great, period, and that classifying them as rap metal is barely the tip of the iceberg. My fave FNM tracks have no rap in them whatsoever. Unheralded now; some day they will get their due!