Here we are yet again with another reunion album – the only difference here being that it is the reunion album from my favorite band (EVER). We’ve had decent returns with albums like Soundgarden’s King Animal (which I am aware I like more than most people) or At The Gates’ At War With Reality and then really great ones like Carcass’ Surgical Steel and Gorguts’ Colored Sands, but I was much more skeptical this time because it was FNM. They made 2 of my favorite albums ever with 1992’s Angel Dust (my all time favorite record) and 1995’s King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime. I’ve been listening to this record for a while now, trying to gather my feelings about it and try and organize them into what is hopefully a semi-coherent way.
I guess the first thing that needs to be said about this album is that the first 3 songs to be “released” (meaning – played live and heard through shitty videos) I enjoyed. I thought “Matador” was really great, “Superhero” was a fantastic song, and “Motherfucker” was fun – and definitely had the clearest sense of silliness of the 3 tracks. But, obviously, those were live videos, so it was still a bit hazy whether the rest of the album would live up to those tracks. I will be honest and say that the first time I listened to this album all the way through, I was not wowed by it.
Sonically, this album definitely picks up where 1997’s Album of the Year left off. That album is probably my least favorite of the 4 albums the band did with Patton on vocals. Granted, I still like the majority of songs from that album, but as a whole it didn’t really impact me as much as the two I mentioned above or have the fun quality that The Real Thing had. This album is probably on the same level as Album of the Year for me in terms of the songwriting. This isn’t a terribly “heavy” record, there’s very little on here that could be called metal, and a couple of tracks are unquestionably un-rock (that’s not a word but I’m using it anyway).
I have to say that “Cone of Shame” is pretty much what I thought a FNM song would sound like if the band ever got together to record new material. That western guitar into with Patton speak-singing over it was sort of what I imagined in my head for some reason – so hearing that track definitely put a smile on my face. Although the second half of the track morphs into probably the heaviest part of this record and I dig it. Patton goes wild on his end while the instrumentation recalls that sort of sludgy-rock I love from a track like “The Last to Know” from KFAD/FFAL. It’s a really fun track that I think is probably one of the more immediately grabbing tracks on here for fans of the band’s more metal/rock side.
But I shouldn’t fail to single out the rest of the band. I am a huge Patton fan, and his vocals reign supreme on here, but the rest of the band are just great as well. I’ve always been a huge fan of Billy Gould and Mike Bordin. They’ve always done fantastic work and I’ve felt like their work has always been kind of underrated in terms of great rhythm sections in rock/metal and both of them do not disappoint on here. Personally I think I would have liked to have heard Gould’s bass a bit louder in the mix but that’s a personal gripe. But both of them have always been reasons why I love this band. “Separation Anxiety” is probably the track from here that sticks with me the most in regards to the two of them playing in sync. Roddy Bottum’s keyboards on this album are much more understated on this record than they have been on almost any other FNM record. He sticks mainly to piano and a couple of other synth sounds. He doesn’t ever really get as weird with his sounds or playing as he did in the past. Then there’s guitarist Jon Hudson, who I have to say I wasn’t too keen on his playing on Album of the Year, but on here he definitely impressed me. His playing is much more melodic and straightforward than his predecessors, and that was kind of what turned me off of his playing on the 1997 record, but on here he really feels much more at home with the band.
This is probably the most time I’ve had to spend with a FNM record in order to really grasp at what the band was kind of going for. As I said above, the first time I listened to it, I liked it, but I wasn’t head over heels for it. It took me like 4 or 5 listens through before it started to really infect with. On first listen, tracks like “Superhero”, “Sunny Side Up”, and “Motherfucker” were the ones that stuck out the most, but at the point of me writing this it’s tracks like “Black Friday” and closer “From The Dead” that really stay with. I can safely say that I do enjoy this record quite a bit. There are still a few things that don’t really do it for me but for the most part I really dig this.