Picks and Pans Review: Mr. Bungle

updated 09/30/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/30/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Mr. Bungle

With all those 12-step programs of various description, maybe Mr. Bungle is the wave of the future. They're sort of Musicians Anonymous.

Check out the band's publicity photo on this page: The quintet, wearing masks, are identified only by such names as Scummy and Bar.

Not to reveal too much, but it's curious that you never see this group's singer, one Vlad Drac, and Mike Patton, of Faith No More, in the same place at the same time. In fact, followers of the Bay Area music scene already know that prior to FNM, Patton was involved with a band called Mr. Bungle, which included guitarist Trey Spruance and bassist Trevor Roy Dunn.

But then music this weird deserves an air of mystery. Produced by avant-garde saxophonist John Zorn, this album is a brash, unpredictable punk-carnival-jazz-cabaret-horror mix in which melodies, instruments and time signatures play wild games of chutes and ladders while sound bites and obscure samples scurry underfoot.

Predictably, the lyrics aren't greeting-card material. There's the obscure "Slowly Growing Deaf': "Paint my lungs so silently/ The darkest color of your noise/ A crowd will contradict its own audibility/ Can't hear the dialogue for the voice." For the nightmarish, try "Travolta," about a limbless sideshow freak: "With his mouth sewn shut, he still shakes his butt/ Cuz he's Hitler & Swayze & Trump & Travolta." This is a cacophonous, gross, demanding (and not uninteresting) recording. No wonder the band doesn't use their real names. They're probably afraid their mothers might be listening. (Warner Bros.)

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