photo & text by nacrowe
i have a VISCERAL memory of being at OZZFEST 99 as a teenager walking the grounds of the PNC BANK ARTS CENTER in NEW JERSEY when over the loudspeaker they started playing "STRIPSEARCH" off of FAITH NO MORE's ALBUM OF THE YEAR (REPRISE, 1997) record which had only been out for two years at that point. the mixture of that repeated synth line that climaxed into a hard-hitting syncopated rhythm and MIKE PATTON's soaring vocals was an incredibly arresting experience, especially at that volume level. it was absolutely STUNNING.
every FAITH NO MORE album has a DIFFERENT vibe and ALBUM OF THE YEAR had a distinctive FUNERARY aesthetic from the artwork and their penchant to play live this cycle in suits, down to DIRGE-Y tracks like "ASHES TO ASHES," "LAST CUP OF SORROW," "PATHS OF GLORY," "COLLISION" and "HELPLESS." it felt like a wake. it wasnt until i recently read the EXCELLENT FAITH NO MORE biography SMALL VICTORIES (review linked HERE) by ADRIAN HARTE that i learned that this interpretation wasnt an anomaly, as the band members were in fact consciously saying goodbye to the project with this record. throughout its production, bassist and longtime resident producer BILLY GOULD, drummer MIKE BORDIN and new guitarist JON HUDSON basically conceived and wrote most of the material. that ascending synth line on "STRIPSEARCH" i am so enamored with, that was HUDSON, not keyboardist RODNEY BOTTUM as i had expected. this was the second album, the other being KING FOR A DAY, FOOL FOR A LIFETIME (REPRISE, 1995) that BOTTUM effectively checked out creatively from the group during the writing process, as he was more involved with IMPERIAL TEEN at this stage, to the immense FRUSTRATION of GOULD.
when the material was in a somewhat finalized state, PATTON was brought in and he contributed vocals, which was the same basic process utilized on THE REAL THING (REPRISE, 1989) when he joined the group. it was a risk, as GOULD and HUDSON had no assurances that PATTON would even like the music, as at this point PATTON was heavily involved with his other project MR. BUNGLE, not to mention that he had moved full time to BOLOGNA with his ITALIAN wife. despite such PATTON got involved straight away and even brought three tracks with him including "NAKED IN FRONT OF THE COMPUTER," "GOT THAT FEELING" and "HOME SICK HOME." as a listener i always found this album to be one of the most consistent in terms of songwriting but had absolutely no idea that it was recorded in such a DISJOINTED manner with the new guy HUDSON pulling so much creative weight in the process.
one other INTERESTING aside about the record is the influence of GOULD's travels throughout EASTERN EUROPE, specifically ALBANIA, on specific songs. "MOUTH TO MOUTH" and its SKITTISH heavily-SYNCOPATED feel was inspired by the TURKISH-influenced street music that he encountered in ALBANIA. as a former PEACE CORPS volunteer that was stationed for a little over two years in that particular country, its absolutely tantalizing to think of where he went (writer's note: i messaged GOULD on TWITTER this very question and he wrote back, responses linked HERE and HERE). likewise the closing song "PRISTINA" is named after the capital of KOSOVO, an ethnically ALBANIAN city that i likewise was lucky enough to visit several times due to its relative proximity to KUKES were i was initially stationed. obviously his travels there predated by a few years the SERBIAN invasion during the KOSOVO WAR that began in 1998. i wonder what he took from the experience and if he's been back post-conflict. the song itself almost functions as an epic sendoff to one of the great ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands that ever was. its just unfortunate that it was released during a period in music history where NU METAL was beginning to break out and FAITH NO MORE were effectively largely discarded by less adventurous and less gifted musicians that traded in self-pity, homophobia and misogyny who likewise saw them as cultural forefathers. in retrospect it makes perfect sense that they got out while the going was still relatively good.
that is until they reconvened for the INCREDIBLE SOL INVICTUS (RECLAMATION, 2015) almost two decades later. with full participation and without missing a beat.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR is required listening in my opinion by a seminal band for the ages. most definitely worth checking out for the uninitiated.