12 March 2009

More Faith, no?

So Faith No More announced they were getting back together. I should be happy. I am happy, in a way, because it’s inherently good. However, like Chinese Democracy, it should never have happened in the first place. It’s always better as something to fantasise about than as something to have to face up to in real life.

On the Gn’R tip, it was a combination of the album’s massively prolonged gestation – with requisite Axl awesomeness – and the fact that it was always going to be rubbish. Even removing The Spaghetti Incident from the discussion, the Use Your Illusion albums were patchy and bloated, and they were 17 years closer to the band’s recorded peak than Chinese Democracy. There was nothing to look forward to.

In FNM’s case, it’s more about principle. While they were a fantastic band; the best thing any member was involved in; a reunion should never have been necessary. I suppose it still isn’t necessary. Anyway, Patton – the focal point since 1989, let’s face it – had a million other things on the go, and never seemed to look back.

Quite aside from another fantastic band that sadly folded, Mr. Bungle, Patton made great noises with Tomahawk, Fantômas, John Zorn, Kid606 and Melvins. Decent noises with Kaada, Peeping Tom, Dan the Automator, Björk and the X-Ecutioners. He did soundtracks of his own, and released compilations of Morricone’s. He was always looking at the next idea, and never back.

But I suppose it’s the fact that Patton always wanted to surprise people that meant such an unexpected move as this should come as no surprise. Why the hell not reunite one of the greatest bands of the last two decades? Perhaps Mike was gearing up to make the fourth Tomahawk album only to find his guitarist, Duane Denison, was busy rehearsing with his own past: Jesus Lizard.

FNM are apparently playing one date. Download Festival, at Donington Park. £160 for a ticket. £160 to see one band. The second-best band on a bill full of dinosaurs and nu-metal embarrassments is probably Def Leppard. And if I was bothered about seeing them, I’d have bought a ticket for their arena tour. So it’s a bit of a wash-out. Hopefully they’ll play more dates. That would make sense, but Faith No More was not a band for whom making sense was a priority.

There must be an upside to this though, right? Well yeah, of course there is. And it’s in the personnel. If this were purely a nostalgia trip, someone would have thrown enough money at the hirsute and homophobic pumpkin farmer – and original guitarist – Jim Martin. No, he doesn’t grow gay-hating fruit. Or does he?

I digress. The telling thing here is the fact that the line-up is the last one the band had before splitting: the 1997-98 band. Not the ‘classic’ line-up, nor the original one (Chuck Moseley, now there’s your ticket seller). Nor the one with Courtney Love singing, thank fuck.

This suggests to me, along with the band’s assertion that their music still sounds good after all these years – that the motivation for this reunion is actually to make music. What a novel concept. That would explain why Patton would be willing to take a step back in time, a step back in the musical complexity stakes. It would also explain the one announced date.

This is why I’m excited. While this summer will mark 12 years since the last Faith No More record, I am optimistic that this quintet is sufficiently good, un-ravaged by the process of time, and realistic, to deliver a good album. Their hitherto swansong, Album of the Year, is no older than Portishead’s self-titled album after all. It’s not like Third was rubbish, unless you attend Paul Morley’s avant-garde dinner parties.

I should also mention that the band was better without Jim Martin anyway. While they delivered some absolutely classic songs with Martin, in the shape of ‘The Real Thing’, ‘Surprise! You’re Dead’, ‘Midlife Crisis’ and ‘Caffeine’, dropping him was a wise move.

Jim Martin was a very creative heavy metal guitarist who pumped out many cool riffs. But Faith No More was about more than just heavy metal. Once the rest of the band were free of him, they were able to flex their considerable creative muscles and make music they’d arguably have been unable to with him on board.

Faith No More was always about strong personalities, but perhaps they need one straight man (between Martin and Hudson, they used Bungle man Trey Spruance – last seen in post-metal darlings Asva – on King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime) to act as their glue. With that many personalities pulling in opposite directions, someone has to follow orders and allow the creativity to flow without either being hampered or imploding.

Eventually, of course, the band did implode. And in terms of ‘in it for the money’ accusations, it’s not as though Mike Bordin would make much more money drumming for Faith No More than he did with Korn and Ozzy Osbourne. If anything, this is him ‘selling in’. Hudson, bassist Bill Gould, and Bordin have been all too creatively quiet since FNM ended (Roddy Bottum has had his Imperial Teen outlet for years); maybe this is what they’ve been waiting for all along.

Or maybe the joke is on me.

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