Though more straightforward than past efforts, Album Of The Year still manages to remain the strange hybrid that could only be Faith No More. Actually, there’s a vast, echoed sound that’s unique to this album, which finds them playing to their strengths. By this I mean that keyboardist Roddy Bottum again occupies a position of prominence, and though his modernized synth sounds seem somewhat more gimmicky than in the past, Bottum still gives an impressive performance. Also, singer Mike Patton tones down the inane growling and shrieking that occasionally made listening to King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime a chore; here he shows off his many styles with aplomb, becoming the band’s biggest asset.
From the grinding guitars (courtesy of new guitarist Jon Hudson) of “Collision” to the celestial beauty of “Stripsearch,” the big riffs, futuristic keyboard flourishes, and anthemic chorus of “Last Cup Of Sorrow,” and onto the staccato riffing and rapid fire vocals of “Naked In Front Of The Computer,” Faith No More delivers a more consistent set than on the last album, whose peaks rose higher and which was winningly weirder. Acoustic guitars come to the fore on the soulful beginning to “Helpless,” but eventually the electric guitars turn up for a soaring chorus, only to be replaced again by a serene tunefulness before building to an exciting and desperate finale, concluding with Patton’s anguished cries of “help.” Bottum’s carnival-esque keyboards are interspersed with a thrash punk attack on “Mouth To Mouth,” while “Ashes To Ashes” is another effective track showcasing their idiosyncratic melding of coiled guitar frenzy, keyboard-led atmospherics, and Patton’s alternately beautiful and bellowed vocals.
Alas, there are times when the band tries to do too much at once, but jumping in and out of so many musical styles keeps things sounding fresh, and when Patton breaks out his falsetto croon on the r&b flavored pop of “She Loves Me Not,” it’s clear that there’s little that this band can’t do. Perhaps a few of the shorter songs (such as “Home Sick Home”) aren’t completely fulfilling and a case could be made that certain songs (such as “Pristina”) coast on atmosphere alone, but this turned out to be a fine finale for Faith No More, who broke up soon after this album’s completion. Perhaps it was because the album flopped, or perhaps it was simply a case of the band doing things their way to the very end, saying what they had to say (strong though it is, Album Of The Year shows few moves that they hadn’t already shown) and then disappearing. However, there’s no denying that Faith No More’s influence would live on forever.