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[page in the process of being converted from MP3 status to full status]

Class ?

Main Category: Avantgarde
Also applicable: Pop Rock, Funk/R'n'B, Heavy Metal, Meta-Rock
Starting Period: The Divided Eighties
Also active in: From Grunge To The Present Day



Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of a Mr Bungle fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Mr Bungle fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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Year Of Release: 1986
Overall rating =

Jascha Heifetz's worst nightmare.

Best song: HYPOCRITES (?)

Track listing: 1) Grizzly Adams; 2) Anarchy Up Your Anus; 3) Spreading The Thighs Of Death; 4) Hypocrites; 5) Bungle Grind; 6) Raping Your Mind; 7) Evil Satan; 8) Sudden Death.

Some suspicious-as-shit, paranoid, insecure, clueless, futureless people (most of them vegetarians, too) will one day try to trick you into assuming that the debut record of the band commonly known as Mr Bungle came out in 1991; bore the proud title of Mr Bungle; was produced by avantgarde genius John Zorn; and featured a fruity melange of funky-rappy-whatever noise alternating with occasional melodies and god only knows what else, capturing the band's creativity in full form, flowing and gushing out of every pore.

Now let me tell you some really esoteric knowledge: Mr Bungle was, in fact, not Mr Bungle's debut at all. At least, it wasn't a debut according to what a "debut" is offered the possibility of being in the modern world, where releasing and distributing records has slowly evolved from a sacral procedure available only to the select few to an activity that requires little more than enthusiasm and a modest starting capital for getting shitty equipment. Mr Bungle was Mr Bungle's major label debut. But way before they signed up with Warner Bros. and by doing so sold out like the fuckin' Britney Spears clones they are, they had been regularly making demo-quality tapes of material which they distributed through some minor label that was so minor indeed I strongly suspect they invented it themselves. In fact, I'm not even sure it had any official registration anywhere but in the back of their minds.

But that's not the point. The point is, these few albums are often included in Mr Bungle's discographies, and although the names are always followed by disclaimers that they have never been released on LP or CD, are impossible to procure by any legal means, have little value other than purely historical, etc., etc., they're there, and since I happen to have heard them, here's my humble account. Anyway, to sum it up: Mr Bungle's debut album was released in 1986, not 1991, and was called The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny, not Mr Bungle. What's up with the name, you ask me? Well, "Easter Bunny" means they recorded it during Easter time. And Raging Wrath means that... brace yourself... that it is a DEATH METAL ALBUM!

And I'm not joking. This album is not about experimenting with all kinds of genres, not about being as unpredictably weird as possible - it's all about being a Slayer/early Sepultura clone! And a pretty dang convincing Slayer/Sepultura clone, too, if only I could make out at least something through the horrendous murky tape quality. See, I got this on my Russian MP3 CD, so I have no idea what was the exact source of conversion - maybe if I located a copy of the original cassette, the sound would be as crisp as the crust on my overcooked pizza. I doubt it, though. As it is, I'm pretty sure there are two guitars on most of the songs here, each of them going at diddley-diddley-dumpling speed all the time - but I can only tell that because there are moments when one of the two guitars stops and then I hear a faint crunch of the second one. No bass either, of course, except at certain times. In designated areas.

Of course, nothing of it matters that much because the songs suck. The only thing that impresses me is the playing quality - hey, these lads were all barely 18 or so in 1986, and here they are going at lightning speed and playing so goddamn fast, and even some of the solos are technically pretty good. Maybe it's actually all the better for us that they never tried to go 'big' with this kind of sound - the chops here seem so impressive to me that they could have easily procured themselves a spot on any metal label had they really wanted to, and then what? No California for the world! Besides, Mike Patton just, like, totally masters the Cookie Monster vocal art - with all the "ooouuuaaaarrrrrghh!" and "wwrrrrreeeeeuuuggggh!" firmly in place, enough to make Max Cavalera eat his heart out. But death metal is pretty hard to take even when it boasts excellent production, and with the sound quality on this cassette, you can't tell one song from another unless you're an acoustics expert.

Out of the eight songs, only two somehow hint at Mr Bungle's future, or, to be more exact, just don't have anything to do with death metal. 'Grizzly Adams' is a light ballad type instrumental introduction, with an acoustic guitar having a lazy conversation with an electronically treated electric one before a third one, even more "treated" and distorted, takes over and brings the tune to a conclusion. But there's nothing particularly special about it, and it intentionally gives you a totally false hint at what might follow. Now that I think of it, maybe it was Mr Bungle's take on these atmospheric "medieval" acoustic instrumentals that thrash metal bands used to insert in random places on their albums just to let you know they can play something else than distorted riffs at five thousand notes per second (their sonic impression of a sexy bikini-clad princess as opposed to the sonic impression of the sweaty axe-wielding barbarian). It sounds different, though.

Then there's 'Evil Satan', which, despite the title, is the only tune truly reminiscent of classic era Bungle, with a funky rhythm, ethnic percussion, crazy distorted sax riffs, and Patton half-rapping, half-hiccuping his way through. However, the sound quality doesn't get any better, meaning that at best, you're just getting a slight breather, and at worst, you won't even feel the difference. Also, out of the metal songs, 'Hypocrites' is slightly slower (at times) and slightly more interesting than most others, beginning with an almost bluesy section and then transforming for a few seconds into something that I could only define as a cross between poppy New Wave and bubblegum, with Patton chanting 'oh we're the hypocrites'. But then he goes 'wouuagggh!' and the song becomes messy death metal again.

Everything else holds no surprises. Songs with extremal titles like 'Spreading The Thighs Of Death' and 'Anarchy Up Your Anus' that would make Anal Cunt proud, I guess, blinding thrash riffs and Patton sounding like he's still gulping down vodka, bottle after bottle, despite already having established a regular throw-up rhythm at about one fit every fifteen seconds. I'm still not quite sure if the band really wanted to do nothing but death metal at the time and then quickly grew out of that stage, or if it was just a carefully planned stunt - because it's not like you find "death metal bands for one album" every day, see. The death metal mentality is usually a fixed one; if you're taking that stuff seriously, there's little chance of moving on to radically different territory.

Whatever it was, I am impressed (and I do not exclude the possibility that a few of these songs could be far more impressive given proper recording techniques), but I sure don't want to listen to it any more. The Raging Wrath could be fun for Patton completists, but for everybody else, I'd recommend trying to find 'Evil Satan' and 'Hypocrites' somewhere and forget about the rest. Historical interest galore, though. Cool cassette sleeve, too.



Year Of Release: 1987

Okay, this one's more listenable. In fact, it's so much more listenable that Mr Bungle's recording company once even put it out on CD (erroneously retitled Bowl Of Chiley), but, fortunately, Patton and his croonies caught wind of that and forced the album to be dropped from the market (I guess it's now a collector's item or something like that, with only a few copies in circulation).

The sound quality is still horrible, of course, it being a cassette and all, but maybe just a notch above the previous effort anyway, although I still can't hear the rhythm guitar no matter what I do. The main improvement, of course, is in the material. Apparently, the speedy death metal 'ooouaaarrrgh!' thing grew off Mr Bungle much quicker than it grew off, say, Sepultura, and Bowel Of Chiley sounds nothing like its predecessor - Heaven and Earth. A couple of tracks still have speedy metal riffs, and occasionally Patton still does the Cookie Monster thing, but that's about it. (The overtly, disgustingly gross 'Cottage Cheese' - yeah, I did find the lyrics stating exactly what Patton is singing and what "cottage cheese" actually stands for - is one major, and totally crappy, exception).

Instead, they fully embrace the direction at which 'Evil Satan' was pointing originally: a weird mix of jazz, funk, "ethnic" elements and... uh... well, whatever gets thrown into the pot. Oh, and rap, of course, with Patton never so much singing as alternating between rapping, yelling, speaking, shouting, gargling, vomiting, and sticking poisoned ninja discs in his larynx. Strange enough, even with all these influences and hybrids, Bowel Of Chiley still manages to sound... boring. This should be, of course, primarily blamed on the sound quality, which in the end levels everything to the same "muddy" level; but another thing is that they use pretty much the same instrumentation on every track - and the blend of syncopated guitars, hiccuping vocals, and jazzy saxes never varies much, even if they may be playing all kinds of different melodies anyway.

Worse, some of the tracks drag on for what would seem eternity even on a well-produced album: the anthemic, eight-minute monster 'Nicotina', for instance, which hardly deserves more than two. I mean, it starts out all right, fast, rollickin', jazzy, with cool funny brass riffs, but then it just becomes a polygon for Patton's insane ravings with occasional instrumental breaks that always sound the same. It's certainly interesting to see these - still so young and unexperienced - gentlemen come up with something that whacky and complex (in terms of playing, at least), but it doesn't guarantee repeated listenings, nosiree.

It's hardly surprising, then, that my favourite track is the opening one, 'For No Reason'. It starts with all the band members making wild noises (yelping, puking, coughing, whining, sneezing, grunting, you name it), then goes into this smooth "generic ska" section, then transforms into a carnivalesque romp with all the band chanting 'it's a small world after all, it's a small world after all!', and then breaks off with one more final grunt. It's stupid and juvenile, but then again, you could say the same about much of Mr Bungle's "official" output as well; the thing is, it pretty much tells you everything you should know about this album. Chuggin' guitars, ska rhythms, unwarranted weirdness, you're not gonna get too much news after hearing the first track.

In the interests of honesty, though, I must state that some of the material here could be salvageable with better production (and, in fact, a couple of the tracks were re-recorded by the band for their major label debut, like 'Carousel', for instance). There's plenty of important-sounding sax riffs, and some of the melody changes within songs are almost startling, heck, some of the songs really sound like finished songs, or, at least, wholesome musical entities - but I just can't force myself into listening to this mess with enough attention, especially knowing that the good-sounding stuff is just around the corner. So this time around I'll just say that if you're a Patton fanatic, you need to get Bowel Of Chiley - unlike that baffling exercise at death metal riffage that was The Raging Diarrhoea Of The Easter Bunny. But you probably won't be listening to it all that much, although it might inspire you to try this style out with your own band.

Oh yeah, interesting trivia fact - 'Mr Bungle' gets really namechecked here in a couple of places.


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