California

Mr. Bungle

Warner Brothers, 1999

http://www.mrbungle.com

REVIEW BY: Pete Crigler

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/11/2018

This is one of the most underrated, brilliant records I’ve ever heard. I must’ve been about 13 or 14 when I got this on cassette for Christmas and I still love it.

Completely different from their previous records, California is where Mr. Bungle entered the easy listening phase of their career, but everything’s still brilliant. “Sweet Charity” could’ve benefited from some radio airplay, it’s that accessible. Switching from Hawaiian guitar to lovely, mellow percussion work, it sounds like a completely different band from the one that produced songs like “The Girls Of Porn,” “My Ass Is On Fire” and “Everyone I Went to High School With Is Dead.” And that’s just track one! A masterpiece.nbtc__dv_250

“The Air Conditioned Nightmare” is like Middle Eastern surf rock, yet it works. No other band outside of the Residents or Captain Beefheart could make this work, but Bungle pulled it off. It also shows the musical sophistication that developed between a song like “Squeeze Me Macaroni” and here. A band that grew this much could’ve blown minds if they’d managed a forth record. “Ars Moriendi” sounds like death metal collided with an Arabian dance band, but just think of all the possibilities.

“None Of Them Knew They Were Robots” sounds like the Bungle of old, very schizophrenic and all over the place musically and lyrically, but still oh so good! Trevor Dunn’s “Retrovertigo,” remains the band’s greatest song, just all-around stunning. Lovely, beautiful and touching, the whole band just ups their musical ante and turned out probably the last great song of the ’90s, utterly, devastatingly mind-blowing.

“Pink Cigarette” is the most radio-friendly song here, smooth easy listening that might feel a bit different to the ears after the aural assault of the first half of the record. Definitely a different sort of track, but again the band makes it work. “Vanity Fair” follows in that path, coming across like a ’70s soul song with some really great bass and one of the more traditional performances vocalist Mike Patton ever did on a Bungle disc.

While not as schizophrenic as their two previous records, California proved that even a band like Mr. Bungle could stretch their wings and become accessible to a modern-day audience. It’s such a shame they ended a year after this, because who knows what they could’ve done in the future.

Rating: A

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