Welcome to Mike Patton's Flying Circus...
Just as "Monty Python's Flying Circus" was to 1970s television, so is "Mr. Bungle's" debut album to music in the 1990s. The album that was named after the band and released on August 13, 1991, broke the boundaries of what was considered acceptable at the time and broke conventions, both in the crazy and disturbing content, in the production loaded with sound and information, and in the musical style that made it impossible to define.
This is a crazy album that not only mixed styles of metal, funk, soul, death, progressive, jazz, ska, and circus music, not only took the lyrics to extremes with writing topics of porn, vomiting, masturbation, domestic violence, and of course about a pedophile and alcoholic clown who also stars on the cover, but also took the production one step too far with crazy transitions, sounds of vomiting, horrible screams, sighs from pornographic movies and quotes from the movie "Blue Velvet" by David Lynch.
This crazy album probably wouldn't have come out at all, if it weren't for Mike Patton joining "Faith No More" three years earlier and releasing the wonderful album "The Real Thing". After all, "Mr. Bungle" was Patton's first group, which he formed back in 1985, while the band members were still in high school, but they failed to get a recording contract, partly due to their crazy style that no record company could understand.
Since the band members felt rejected by society, among others because of the styles of music they liked, they gave their band the name "Mr. Bungle", based on an educational film for children called "Beginning Responsibility: Lunchroom Manners", which addressed the theme of rejected children. Mike Patton said that the band was formed after its members were kicked out of other bands that were really bad. Drummer Jed Watts and guitarist Trey Spruance were thrown from a gothic metal band and Mike and the bassist Trevor Dunn threw themselves out of a "Metallica" cover band.
They started as a death metal band, but very quickly the band's style became so eclectic, complex, and varied that they had to use a lot of instruments, some of them not "conventional" to produce their crazy sound. The use was so complex and different that it was very difficult for them to record it in the studio and even more difficult to perform the material in concert (photos of the band in concert, show the stage as a "garage sale"). They used to go to shows in fancy costumes and outfits, with strange masks. They change their behavior according to the same character in every show. The most popular costumes were clown costumes and carnival props, which found their way as the main motif on the band's debut album.
The complexity on stage and off, as well as the feelings of "rejection" they felt from the record companies, did not stop the band, which continued to make the music they wanted, even though the demos they recorded over the years were rejected time and time again by the record companies.
But then, about five years after its establishment, something miraculous happened. The band members moved to San Francisco. Guitarist Trey Spruance said that the location change also affected the band's musical style. They became interested in "Slayer" and "Mercyful Fate" and later also in "The Specials" and "Fishbone". Their shows started to gain momentum, probably also due to the rumor that the one who leads them is none other than Mike Patton. The record companies are becoming interested and the first to recognize the potential was "Warner Bros. Records" which signed them on a recording contract in 1990.
This album is a genius, schizophrenic and disturbing show, from start to finish. From the moment the needle touches the record we enter a crazy and horrifying world. A musical horror circus with scary clowns and broken carousels that keep spinning at top speed with you abroad not being able to step out.
Those who made the mistake of turning up the volume for the first few seconds of the opening song "Quote Unquote" because they thought their stereo was broken, will get the album's first "heart attack" at 0:34 right after the sound of the shattering glass. Horror music combined with jazz, circus music, and more, musical changes in a matter of seconds. The volume goes up and down like a swing, the hallucinatory sounds mix with it and attack your nervous system as Mike Patton's insane and delightful voice envelops you from all directions and cradles you in a fetal position. This song was originally supposed to be called "Travolta" after John Travolta. The name is even mentioned in the song and Mike Patton even sang a part of the theme song of the movie "Grease", but the fear of a lawsuit led the band members to name it after the biography written about John Travolta called "Quote Unquote".
This madness of jumping from genre to genre without any rhyme or melody continues throughout the entire album, with songs that even cross the 10-minute mark. "Slowly Growing Deaf" was inspired by the ironic need to use earplugs while listening to music and is also the first song in the "Sleep" trilogy, with the other two parts appearing on the band's second album. "Squeeze Me Macaroni" addresses extreme sex through food metaphors. "Carousel" takes us on the band's crazy carousel that spins until Mike Patton vomits his soul to the sound of his friends' rolling laughter, while "Egg" deals with social rejection. "Stubb (A Dub)" is about guitarist Trey Spruance's dog called "Stubb". Despite the disturbing content of "My Ass Is on Fire", which includes stabbings, sexual orgasms, and more, it has a captivating oriental section. "The Girls of Porn" is about pornography and masturbation. "Love Is a Fist" deals with domestic violence and in "Dead Goon" we witness the death of the narrator due to self-suffocation.
Just like in a horror movie, listening to this album is accompanied by feelings of fear, but instead of turning away from it, we are actually drawn to it. The heart rate increases, a cold sweat rolls down the spine and you feel like after a bungee jump but without even moving from the chair.
The album received mixed reviews upon its release, but influenced quite a few well-known artists.
In 2015, "Korn's" guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer praised the album, noting that it had a significant influence on him. He noted that the album set the tone for what "Korn" would do creatively. According to him "Mr. Bungle" were completely "outside the box", and they didn't care that they only satisfied themselves.
Former "Dream Theater" drummer Mike Portnoy ranked the album as one of his ten favorite progressive rock albums of all time. He stated that the album scared him the first time he listened to it and that he had never heard anything so twisted, evil, and joyful at the same time.
"Avenged Sevenfold" guitarist Synyster Gates called the album "one of the most amazing pieces of music I've ever heard in my life" and "Incubus" frontman Brandon Boyd stated that he had been a fan of the album since its release and that he loved how the music was honorable, disgusting and scary at the same time...