Thursday, October 09, 2008

Semi-Classic Album of the Week #1: Mr. Bungle - "California"

I love writing about music. For some time I was one of the top reviewers on the user-driven review site, and had a few top reviews with aggregate hits approaching the hundreds of thousands, less because of my proficient prose and more because of my glowing praise of already-popular albums - hardly controversial writing. My tastes have since expanded a great deal, and I find of late that I enjoy the immediacy and personality of a blog format far more than the opportunities offered by a site like Sputnik.

So I'm introducing a new feature, such as it is: Every Monday, I'll be posting a short review of a great album that has affected my life in some significant way. Some have blown me away, introducing me to new artistic possibilities and changed my tastes in some dramatic manner (see below), and some merely stand the test of time as fantastic albums. I see this as a great opportunity to promote some of my favorite music (I'll be posting Amazon links as well for those with enough trust in my taste to actually purchase the music I love.)

I make no claims to be a music encyclopedia or distinguished aural connoisseur - I certainly know quite a bit about what I enjoy and try to seek out new sounds and opportunities when possible, but my blog and everything on it is uncompromisingly introverted and my resources and income are limited. The "semi-classic" label for this feature is intended to connote the subjectivity of my recommendation. Sure, I love all of the albums I'll be featuring, but what do I know?

Though I've started with my favorite album, keep in mind that from now on they'll be featured in no particular order. Anyway, the couple hundred of you who read this thing should know my shtick by now. So without further ado:

Mr. Bungle - California (1999)

Mr. Bungle's interpretation of The Golden State is at once familiar and shockingly new. This soulful, dangerous album's finest moments often connote an image of the California portrayed by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, but touched by a melancholic madness and sense of confident adventure that sets this apart as an entirely new creation.

So the best tracks - "Retrovertigo", "Pink Cigarette" - are genuinely sweet but unsettling, working as impactful, vocal-driven pop, yet at the edges of their composition lurks a twisted subversion that lends them a depth you'll find in few other records. On California Mr. Bungle hones their eclectic chops to precision, creating a record as visionary, scattered and organic as anything this gifted crew (including the venerable Mike Patton) has ever worked on. Oh - and the lyrics are as perfect as any I've seen.

On this, their last and finest album, Mr. Bungle breaks the mold on every track, from the hellfire-tinged cautionary rockabilly number "None of Them Knew They Were Robots", the funky, creepy "Golem II: The Bionic Vapour Boy", the steady, cinematic "The Holy Filament" or the heavy, technical Arab thrash of "Ars Moriendi". Every track is killer and this album has nary a wasted moment. With so much fine music to consider, I unhesitatingly call this my favorite record of all time.

You want this album - you just don't know it yet.

Buy This Record Through Amazon

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