Tag Archives: MTV

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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Nevermind

This album heralded a revolution. Sick of all the slick, cheesy hair bands that dominated the late ‘80s due to MTV, America’s youth embraced this album as a call to arms, and the music scene hasn’t been the same since. Shockingly coming from out of nowhere to knock Michael Jackson’s Dangerous from the #1 slot on the Billboard charts, Nevermind marked the exact moment when “alternative rock” music finally found mainstream acceptance. We can all debate whether that turned out to be such a good thing or not, especially in light of all the copycat bands that ended up making “grunge” a dirty word in most music circles. But for a while there radio and MTV were actually pretty exciting places, and all because of this album, which sounds almost as fresh today as the day it was released. And why is that? Primarily, it’s because Kurt Cobain was a superb songwriter, and the songs here are such a quantum leap beyond Bleach that it almost sounds like a different band. Also, the addition of Dave Grohl (one of the best rock drummers ever) takes the band’s musical chops and chemistry to another level, and the major label production is miles more advanced than on Bleach.

Of course, Cobain hated it, thinking it too slick and commercial for his purist sensibilities. He has a point, but the scuzzy sonics of Bleach could’ve taken the band but so far (commercially speaking), and this Butch Vig production does a good job of showcasing Cobain’s melodic gifts without sacrificing the vibrant energy of the music. As for the songs, the flagship single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (the one that “broke” the band) just might be the ultimate teen anthem ever, while “In Bloom” delivers a poppy sing along chorus to go along with crunchy power chords and Grohl’s pulverizing drum pop. “Come As You Are” is another all-time classic that’s led by an unforgettable bass riff, an incredibly understated intensity, a technically simplistic but ear pleasingly terrific guitar solo, and memorably prophetic lyrics (“and I don’t have a gun”). To me, it’s like the invitation from Nirvana to its fans. “Breed” is one of several songs (“Territorial Pissings” and “Stay Away” are the others) that rage along with a nonstop fury, while “Lithium” is an excellent example of what Grohl called “punk rock songs you could sing along to.” Elsewhere, “Drain You” and “On a Plain” are catchy rockers with just enough of an edge, “Polly” is a melodic ballad but with chilling lyrics, and “Something In the Way” is a shockingly understated (and successful) song that features sparse cello backing and Cobain’s barely audible voice, thereby foreshadowing their spectacular Unplugged showcase three years later. “Lounge Act” is the only song here that isn’t outstanding (and even that one is pretty good), and Nevermind was arguably the most important album of the ‘90s.

Many of these songs start slow but soon swell to explosive crescendos; this would become a slavishly imitated Nirvana trademark. There is a hidden track approximately seven minutes after the last listed song ends, spearheading one of the more annoying ‘90s trends.