The Real Thing

“From Out Of Nowhere” came this awesome “Epic,” proving that Faith No More was “The Real Thing” (sorry, couldn’t resist). Indeed, The Real Thing was a landmark release for Faith No More, as this major label debut was their first album with new shouter/rapper/crooner Mike Patton, who gave the band a truly distinctive new frontman, strengthening an already fascinating musical foundation. This album was their commercial breakthrough, primarily due to the mammoth MTV hit “Epic,” which marries a killer beat with a great rap from Patton. The song also features those cool thrashy “what is it” sections, not to mention a pretty piano outro and that video with the goldfish flailing around. Really, one could make a case that rap rock/nu-metal as a viable commercial proposition began right here, though that shouldn’t be held against Faith No More, whose music was far more varied (and who were frankly far more talented) than any of those bands.

Throughout The Real Thing, the band’s keyboard-drenched, metallic funk rock is remarkably melodic and powerful, yielding infectious singles such as “From Out Of Nowhere” and “Falling To Pieces.” Though the short “Surprise! You’re Dead!” is straight-up thrash metal, the band stretches out on “Zombie Eaters,” the title track, and “Woodpecker From Mars” (a brilliantly strange yet eerily evocative instrumental), yet these epic length songs are never boring or inaccessible despite being ambitious and experimental. In fact, they’re complete triumphs that show off Faith No More’s mastery at matching atmospheric shadings with heavy metal’s might.

Other highlights are the eminently tuneful “Underwater Love” and a faithful cover of Black Sabbath’s classic “War Pigs,” done well before Sabbath was back in vogue again. Then again, Faith No More have always been a band who were a little too ahead of their time for their own good, but it should be noted that this version gives Black Sabbath a run for their money. Elsewhere, the stellar rhythm section of bassist Billy Gould and drummer Mike “Puff” Bordin, who really shine throughout the album, propel the otherwise unexceptional (if still good) “The Morning After” with their staccato rhythms, while “Edge Of The World” is a somewhat anti-climactic ending (after “War Pigs”), though it’s still a solidly soulful pop song that again demonstrates the band’s willingness to stretch the boundaries of what a metal band was supposed to be.

Fortunately, this is still a highly accessible album (Matt Wallace’s production is commercial yet punchy), the main weakness of which is (despite a generally strong performance) Patton’s at times whiny, immature vocals, the assured quality of which would soon take an astonishing leap forward. Still, The Real Thing is a great album that many regard as the band’s best.

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