It was 1989. The reign of hair metal was in its imminent demise. Nirvana had announced their presence with Bleach, the Pixies had inspired it with Doolittle, and Faith No More was about to reinvent rock entirely with their freeform, genre-defying and altogether groundbreaking album, The Real Thing, released thirty years ago this week.
It was Faith No More’s third album, but their first with vocalist Mike Patton at the helm. The band had formed almost a decade earlier but relentless touring, two unsuccessful albums and tensions with singer, Chuck Mosley had left them tired. Instead of calling it quits, they doubled down on their underground alt-cult momentum and started writing their third album sans singer, convinced that the right person would come along.
Enter Mike Patton. A twenty-year-old student armed with a Mr Bungle demo tape, a powerfully acrobatic vocal range and a deep love for experimental music. With the music already written, Patton had only a couple of weeks to come up with the vocal parts. His dark, surreal and humorous lyrics turned out to be the missing piece of the metal, punk, funk, prog rock puzzle. By the end of the cycle, Faith No More were global superstars and the world of rock and metal were forever changed.
Here are some standout moments from the platinum-selling, Grammy nominated, alt pioneering album, The Real Thing.
“From Out Of Nowhere”
The aptly titled, “From Out Of Nowhere” was the first song and the first single off the album. The fast-paced, intense, synth-driven track announced their disruptive intentions with the dense blocks of keyboards and Patton’s remarkable operatic vocal – all the elements of a traditional metal ballad, twisted together to produce a song that’s anything but.
“Epic” was the second single off The Real Thing was and a breakthrough hit that put FNM on the charts around the world and is still considered their most popular song. With its delicate blend of funk, rap, heavy metal and classical music, “Epic” is credited for laying the groundwork for the development of the nu metal genre that brought us bands like Linkin Park and Korn a decade later.
“Surprise! You’re Dead”
Delving into the heavier side, “Surprise! You’re Dead” proved that despite their tendency to embrace their stranger musical impulses and divergent influences, FNM could easily harness the sheer power of an all-out metal band whenever they wanted.
Faith No More and Mike Patton were a heavenly pairing. The young singer had had never stepped foot in a recording studio before and wasn’t even old enough to buy a beer when he found himself fronting the Californian band as they released their breakthrough album, The Real Thing. Embracing crooning, falsetto, death growls, rapping, chanting, mouth music, beatboxing and scatting, he proved himself a Renaissance man in the truest sense of the word. Patton's expansive career trajectory has seen him produce genre-defying collaborations with Tomahawk, Fantmas, Dead Cross, Lovage, The Dillinger Escape Plan and Peeping Tom (to name a few), start his own record label, score films; he's even penned an Italian language, orchestra driven pop project called Mondo Cane.
There seems to be no limit to what Patton can do. Get down with where it all began and listen to The Real Thing on Spotify:
Listen to The Real Thing on Apple Music: