Faith No More: King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime (Reissue) / Album of the Year (Reissue)
These reissues cover the original end of the band. The overstuffed King for a Day and the (unfairly?) maligned Album of the Year make for interesting revisits with equally interesting bonus discs.
Last year saw the release of Faith No More’s first new album in 18 years, Sol Invictus, as well as deluxe reissues of their two best-known records, The Real Thing and Angel Dust. Although the band has completed their touring cycle for the new album, 2016 has seen the reissue train keep rolling with the band’s long-out-of-print first album We Care a Lot. And now we have reissues of the final two releases of their original run, 1995’s King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime and 1997’s Album of the Year. That leaves only the band’s Warner Bros. debut Introduce Yourself without a reissue, and sorry to disappoint fans of original vocalist Chuck Mosley, but that one probably isn’t coming.
The reissues of King for a Day and Album of the Year find the original albums remastered but sounding essentially the same. The production on both was crisp and clean at the time, and the new versions don’t mess with that. The differences come on the bonus discs, where the outtakes and B-side offerings are much more robust than on the reissues of The Real Thing and Angel Dust. Also, keyboardist Roddy Bottum is on hand to offer brief reminisces in the liner notes; the band members themselves were notably not involved with those earlier reissues.
Album of the Year was generally maligned as a disappointing swan song for Faith No More when it came out in 1997. The band sounded tired and much more willing to rehash old ideas. Bottum, however, praises things like the band’s early adoption of ProTools-assisted recording, new guitarist Jon Hudson’s songwriting contributions, and producer Roli Mossiman’s enthusiasm. He also acknowledges that the band was fraying; everybody was involved with side projects, and naming the record Album of the Year and touring in black suits like they were attending a funeral were pretty strong markers that the band was heading towards its end.
Revisiting Album of the Year today is a more forgiving experience that doesn’t completely refute the original knocks on the album. Hard-hitting opener “Collision” packs as much punch as any of the band’s other openers. The way the band drops Hudson’s thundering guitars during the verses and allows bassist Billy Gould’s and drummer Mike Bordin’s rock-solid syncopated groove to shine is great arranging. Similarly, the two-minute barnburner “Naked in Front of the Computer” has always been one of the band’s best thrash songs. Hudson’s nasty, snarling tone in the intro is excellent, and Bordin’s driving beat (accompanied by what sound like subtle but effective super-fast bongos) really pushes the tempo. Patton’s unhinged vocal performance (not quite as insane as his most extreme moments on King for a Day, which we’ll get to) fits the song perfectly.
Another standout is “Mouth to Mouth”, which embraces the twisted circus aesthetic (courtesy of Bottum’s organ tone) that Patton’s other band, Mr. Bungle, had previously had on lockdown. Faith No More manage to pull it off without sounding like Bungle-lite because they let the song drift from the circus into a more typically Faith No More-sounding heavy chorus and sit on it in the final third of the song. Patton’s vocals go from spitting shout raps in the verses to a throat-shredding harmonized howl in the chorus, and somehow it all works as a coherent song. On the flip side is “She Loves Me Not”, which takes the band’s penchant for soft rock and soul covers and successfully finds them writing their own soul ballad. Patton’s smooth croon and Bottum’s warm piano chords dominate the song, and the band resists trying to spice it up with musical oddness, which makes it a very successful outlier in their catalog.
There is also a selection of songs here that mostly work without quite reaching greatness. “Got That Feeling” suffers from being the third thrashing rocker on the album, which makes it sound like a retread of “Collision” and “Naked in Front of the Computer”. What it has going for it is Patton’s rhythmic chanting refrain (“Get it get it get it / Get you go get it get it get it get”) that sets it apart a bit. The chilled-out paranoia of “Stripsearch” is wonderful, driven by Bottum’s pulsing computer-style blipping synths. Except that the band can’t resist rocking it up at the end with chunky guitars. It doesn’t ruin the song per se, but it hurts the carefully cultivated atmosphere of the first three minutes. In much the same fashion, the twisted funk ballad of “Home Sick Home” is partially undermined by its conventional hard rock bridge. “Helpless” throws a lot of musical ideas at the wall in a single song and manages to make them work together. What it doesn’t manage to do is come up with a memorable melody among those ideas. “Last Cup of Sorrow” is a decent song that’s never been great and has suffered under the burden of being this album’s signature single. That hasn’t changed 19 years later.
Then there are the real drags. “Ashes to Ashes” is a straight-up retread of “King for a Day” and suffers mightily by comparison. “Paths of Glory” is epic midtempo goth Faith No More that never takes off the way the band clearly wants it to. Album closer “Pristina” is just awful, and worse, was the band’s final statement for almost two decades. It’s all crashing guitars and cymbals with no real beat and no inertia. It just lies there for four minutes, finishing the record with a (loud) whimper.
The bonus disc for Album of the Year is an interesting one, though not necessarily for positive reasons. It opens with four straight remixes, each one inadvertently demonstrating a trend of late ‘90s remixing. Gould’s “Pristina” adds a funky hi-hat and rimshot beat and a barely-there bass pulse in an attempt to give the song some momentum. But Patton’s vocals for the song are not designed for momentum, so Gould’s mix sounds like a drumbeat backed with some atmospheric keyboards and vocals more than a real song. Adding an unnecessary drumbeat? Check one. Producer Roli Mossiman takes on “Last Cup of Sorrow” next, and he adds two minutes to a track that already felt long at four minutes. Among his techniques: artificially decaying the guitars and adding metallic clanging sounds to the percussion. Lengthening a song for no good reason? Check two.
The Spinna Main mix of “She Loves Me Not” takes the soul ballad and deconstructs it into a mess of trip-hop and jazz affectations. It is not an improvement in any way. Radically altering a song but making it worse in the process is check three. The Hard Knox Alt. Mix of “Ashes to Ashes” has the most baseline potential of the four, using a mediocre but not unsalvageable song. Instead they take essentially one line of Mike Patton’s vocals and use it as one small element in six minutes of funk bass and drums. With no real melody to speak of, this is basically a backing track. Using a song’s title and adding “remix” to it as a misleading way to get people to listen to your own track? Check four. Aphex Twin did this shit all the time in the '90s, except he had much more interesting ideas than Hard Knox.
The live version of “Collision” that closes the bonus disc is perfectly acceptable, and the live take of the Bacharach/David classic “This Guy’s in Love with You” is great to have on record, as it’s the final oddball pop-soul cover the band regularly played (but never did a studio recording of). The two true B-sides here are decent. “Light Up and Let Go” is a heavy metal workout that once again finds Hudson using a bunch of interesting guitar tones but is kind of lackluster beyond the guitars. “The Big Kahuna” feels like a classic Faith No More funk-metal track that is solid enough to fit anywhere from The Real Thing to Album of the Year without making fans blink.
Stepping back in time a bit, 1995 saw Faith No More recovering from a long touring cycle for Angel Dust where the band spent a lot of time being the underappreciated opening act on the biggest tour in the world, the Guns ‘n Roses and Metallica co-headlining show. It took its toll on the band and ultimately led to the dismissal of longtime guitarist Jim Martin and his signature long frizzy hair and goofy sunglasses. As a replacement the band settled on Patton’s Mr. Bungle cohort, Trey Spruance. Listening to the interview included at the end of the bonus disc, it sounds like Spruance was an enthusiastic participant in the songwriting and recording process for King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime but balked at the prospect of touring with the band for over a year. Because he made the call to leave the band after the recording process, Faith No More is listed as a four piece on this album, with a little side credit that says “Guitars by Trey Spruance.” This has always seemed both reasonable (he left, so of course he doesn’t deserve full credit) and odd simultaneously (this is a guitar-heavy album, and they don’t officially have a guitarist on the album).
King for a Day is a great follow-up to the brilliant Angel Dust. That album found the band clicking on all cylinders as Patton’s influence grew, even as Martin started to chafe against the rest of the members. King for a Day has Faith No More pushing further in all directions. It’s heavier, it’s softer, it’s even more varied in genre experimentation, and it’s longer. If the album has a flaw, it’s that last one. At 10 or 11 tracks instead of 14, King for a Day would be much closer in quality level to its predecessor. But 1995 was really when the compact disc era was taking off, and record companies pushed acts for more and more content to fill up the space, often in spite of quality level. As the loaded (13 tracks, seven of them legitimate b-sides) bonus disc shows, Faith No More certainly had the quantity to fill a disc this time around.
Like “Collision” after it, “Get Out” is a heavy and fast opener. Unlike “Collision”, though, “Get Out” features an excellent vocal melody in addition to pounding drums and chugging guitars. It’s also distinct in that the verses feature an angular, almost disjointed guitar riff from Spruance. This is followed up by the dark, dramatic rocker “Ricochet”, which builds slowly from crashing chords and sparse verses to the full band chorus. This chorus emphasizes Faith No More’s sardonic outlook; “It’s always funny until someone gets hurt / And then it’s just hilarious” is one of the band’s most memorable lines. This swings into “Evidence”, which uses the band’s funk abilities in service of an excellent dark R&B ballad. It’s weird to read Roddy Bottum’s liner notes comments, where he calls “Evidence” one of the band’s most conventional songs. It is extraordinarily unconventional for Faith No More. The band had done quiet songs before, but “Evidence” is so smooth and convincing that it stands out as one of their most successful.
The record’s heavy middle section begins with “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies”, which uses Patton’s voice through what sounds like a megaphone for lyrical nastiness like, “Happy birthday, fucker!” and “If I tighten up my hole / You may never see the light again!” The song is tempered by a high-powered, melodic chorus. This is not the case with “Cuckoo for Caca”, which combines crunchy guitars, creepy organ, and complicated drums to back up Patton’s vocals at his shoutiest and screamiest. There are so many weird, extreme vocal sounds going on in this song that it seems like a precursor for Patton’s later avant-garde project Adult Themes for Voice. It’s not a pleasant song, but it’s very effective. Much less effective is the third iteration of this heavy style, “Ugly in the Morning”. The band switches the parts around here; Patton sings the verses and goes for the extreme vocal variations on the refrain. But it comes off like a lesser combination of “Gentle Art” and “Cuckoo”.
In between this heaviness are the palate cleansers. “Star AD” is a funk-rock workout that leans heavily on the rock, but employs a horn section to great effect. “Caralho Voador” is sung in Portuguese, save for the refrain, and is even more laid-back than “Evidence”. But it doesn’t have the smoothness or the catchiness of that earlier song, which means it works as a nice break but not necessarily that well on its own. Lead single “Digging the Grave” comes directly after Patton’s deranged vocal breakdown finishes out “Ugly in the Morning”, and hearing Faith No More do a straight-ahead hard rock song feels like a breath of fresh air at this point. MTV’s animated ‘90s icons Beavis and Butt-head famously savaged this song saying, “New sound? They sound just like everybody else!” But there’s more energy in this single than many of their 1995-era contemporaries managed on entire albums.
The final third of King for a Day begins with “Take This Bottle”, a country song that’s simple and effective. Faith No More experimented with country on Angel Dust’s goofy “RV”, but this is a serious stab at the genre that works due to Patton’s unironic embracing of country-style crooning and Spruance’s commitment to countrified electric guitar. They follow that up with “King for a Day”, which sprawls over six and a half minutes and earns its running time. The song opens up with jangly minor key guitars, melodic bass, and skeletal piano notes before growing into a widescreen chorus. As the song goes back and forth between these two sections, it ends up in an instrumental jam reminiscent of something off of The Real Thing. After this jam, the song returns to a variation on the original jangly sound for an extended fadeaway that finds Patton singing sadly, “This is the best party I’ve been to” before switching to “Don’t let me die / With / That silly look in my eyes.” Like most of Faith No More’s lyrics, this is cryptic, but Patton’s delivery and the melancholy music make it very effective.
Sadly, the record mostly runs out of steam after the title track. “What a Day” is an uninspired rocker that is much less interesting than the other rockers on the record. “The Last to Know” is another midtempo track filled out with crunchy guitar and soaring vocals, but there’s no real hook, and the song just comes out sounding flat. At least album closer “Just a Man” perks things up a bit with gospel choir backing vocals that make a lovely accompaniment to Patton when he’s in full drama mode.
And that brings us to the aforementioned bonus disc. This is the first time Faith No More really had a batch of extraneous material, which also makes this the most interesting of all the reissue bonus discs. There are two additional versions of “Evidence”, both of which are exactly the same recording except for Patton’s singing, which is in Spanish on one and Portuguese on the other. Live versions of “Digging the Grave” and “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” are perfectly serviceable but not significantly different from the studio recordings. And the nine and a half minute interview that closes the disc is an interesting listen—once.
The B-sides are a mixed bag. “Absolute Zero” and “I Won’t Forget You” sound exactly like typical hard-rocking Faith No More. “Greenfields” is a sparsely arranged track that sounds like a rough draft, while “Spanish Eyes” is a Mexican-flavored ballad that is notably less successful than King for a Day’s other genre takes. “Hippie Jam Song” is appropriately named, as Patton sings some bullshit about finding a summer job and washing feet while the band does a pretty solid impersonation of Phish in funk-rock mode. “Instrumental” is decent, but simpler and less inspiring than Faith No More’s other notable instrumental, The Real Thing’s complex “Woodpecker From Mars”. “I Wanna Fuck Myself” is pretty much self-explanatory—a punk-style goof where Patton gets to sing the title a bunch of times. Also included is the band’s straight-faced cover of The Bee Gees' “I Started a Joke”, complete with Patton’s noticeably affected impersonation of the original vocals. This is kind of fun, but coming after their cover of The Commodores’ “Easy”, it has a lot less impact.
In the reissues, King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime still comes out ahead of Album of the Year, both for the actual record and for the bonus material. While Album isn’t quite the dud its reputation suggests, it’s still the weakest of Patton-era Faith No More. And its bonus disc is more interesting than it is good. King for a Day is far from perfect, but the bonus material, for all its uneven quality, is the most worthwhile of all the band’s reissue discs. With the audio not receiving a significant upgrade, the main appeal of these reissues comes for completists—Faith No More fans can get all of the band’s B-sides and extraneous material in these collections, and that’s great for longtime fans.