Music

Mr. Bungle Return with First Recording Since 1999, A Cover of "Fuck the USA"

Mike Patton's Mr. Bungle release a cover of the Exploited's "Fuck the USA". But what does it mean beyond its general timeliness?

Fuck the USA
Mr. Bungle

Ipecac Recordings

5 June 2020

Mr. Bungle, which reincarnated Friday in the form of an online cover of the Exploited's anthemic (and rather timely) "Fuck the USA", has always been utterly chameleonic. Throughout three brilliant studio LPs and four much-sought-after, cassette-only demos, the San Francisco Bay Area pranksters darted headstrong from one idiom to the next, christening themselves in metal's blood, flirting with ska and funk, and, finally, bending genres and sonic modes all together with chaotic cut-and-paste structures and post-modern pastiche (1995's Disco Volante and 1999's California).

Recently, some 20 years after the group's "demise", several original members of the band reunited for seven carefully choreographed live dates, playing Mr. Bungle's 1986 recording The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny alongside Scott Ian of Anthrax and Dave Lombardo of Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies and Mike Patton Naked City homage Fantomas. Much ballyhoo understandably ensued; the adjusted lineup allegedly has completed a new recording of the Easter Bunny demo. I can imagine the kids doped up on Ipecac (the label, not the emetic) drooling all over themselves in eager anticipation.

Reincarnations owe debts either to the fossil record or immediate past lives, and the Exploited cover, which clocks in at a respectable 2:33, is most definitely the latter. The inimitable Trey Spruance abandons the wondrous ambiguities of Secret Chiefs 3 for heavily palm-muted, chikka-chikka guitar riffage that owes as much to 1980s hardcore as it does to Master of Puppets. Despite a somewhat half-hearted attempt to electronically manipulate vocals on one verse, Patton is nearly unrecognizable, with his usual carnival barker timbre put to the side in favor of guttural, throat-shredding barks a la Wattie Buchan. The song is not only faithful to the original; the new Mr. Bungle lineup seeks to replicate every bit of phrasing and nuance (down to Buchan's rapid-fire interjection of "money money money") with a fervor that froths religious. In short, if Dead Cross put a nickel in your hat, this freshly-minted incantation of Mr. Bungle has got your dime.

What's surprising about the cover – a way of advancing the Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny re-recording, one would postulate -- is how catholic it is. In Mr. Bungle's later years, it was a blisteringly original ensemble and California, to some, represented a zenith in its pursuits, jumping between genres as frequently as its members inhaled or exhaled. Yes, it has been 21 years since California, but has the group regressed to the pubescent rage and lack of sonic depth of its Eureka, California selves? And how are listeners supposed to greet that – as a retread, a bit of nostalgia or a statement in and of itself? Don't misunderstand, Patton fronting Dead Cross is a thing of tremendous and wicked beauty, and many fans are all in on the adrenal gland masturbation of a good Fantomas song. But, the mantle of Mr. Bungle stands rather high.

Mr. Bungle, in the eyes of most "mainstream" critics, of course, always was Patton's "other band", the headlining material belonging to Faith No More. Since Faith No More stopped their run the first time in the late 1990s, Patton has primarily been on an experimental bender with glorious amounts of substance along the way. He has collaborated with Gainsbourg-inspired and Australian electro-acoustic composers, fronted supergroups Tomahawk and Fantomas, and treated fans to Bizarro world art-rock projects like tetema. Christ, even when he's just stretching, manipulating, and editing the sound of his voice – the noisy and enrapturing Adult Themes for Voice, from 1996 – he's a downright genius. The Exploited cover does not do much to advance his modus operandi, though, or justify resurrecting an ensemble as mind-warping as Mr. Bungle. Yeah, the song rocks, no doubt. But, FULL STOP, some of us just want more.

7


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.