California is probably the most normal and approachable album Mike Patton (also of Faith No More) ever made, which is to say, it's one of the oddest and most off-putting albums most people will experience.
Mr. Bungle was Mike Patton's high school band, but me and my teenage friends didn't find out about him until Faith No More's epic song and video, Epic came out. things explode, Mike Patton punches himself in the head, and a fish (evidently given to them by Björk?!) flops about in exquisite suffocation. This song blew our minds, and it wasn't long before someone had a copy of the self-titled first album by Mr. Bungle.
Mr. Bungle (the album) is an insane free-jazz heavy-metal carnival. We loved it mostly as a novelty album, with its hilarious porn samples and rollercoaster ride music, but it wasn't until years later that I heard California.
I think the two biggest influences on California are cheesy lounge music and surf-rock, but as always, Mr. Bungle sometimes (d)evolves into pure avant-garde noise. While some of the songs are truly purely beautiful, most are some kind of wild ride.
Air-Conditioned Nightmare – This is a great song to start with because it inhabits all the madness, beauty and tormented Beach Boys ethos that the album creates. The song begins with clattering percussion, and Mike Patton doing some singing that would have fit in on Pet Sounds. Then, at about the :40 minute mark, it gets twisted, and there's a rapid-fire change to some perverse doo-wop-ing / surf-metal guitar / mechanical pleas to "get me out of this air-conditioned nightmare". Then at about the 3:00 mark, acts sincere, as if he were just trying to sing a beautiful song the whole time, finally introducing the final theme of the song, asking sweetly "where's my rainbow? where's my halo?"[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/04-The-Air-Conditioned-Nightmare.mp3|titles=Mr. Bungle – The Air-Conditioned Nightmare]
Pink Cigarette – Possibly the most straightforwardly gorgeous song on the whole album, Mike croons over vocal choruses and gentle surf rock, a tale of a cuckolded man contemplating impending suicide after his wife leaves him with only a pink cigarette on the bed: "How can I forget that your lips were there?Your kiss goes everywhere, touches everything but me." So perfectly pathetic and campy, but perhaps marred by the obvious heart monitor sounds at the end.[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/06-Pink-Cigarette.mp3|titles=Mr. Bungle – Pink Cigarette]
Goodbye Sober Day – The album's closer, it's notable for it's appropriation of an Indonesian chanting style near the end. After a spooky song cycle, all the air is sucked out of the song at about the 2:10 mark, and Mike Patton does his approximation of Kecak, a Balinese chant used partially to depict a war between Rama and the evil king Ravana (only like a heavy-metal version).[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/10-Goodbye-Sober-Day.mp3|titles=Mr. Bungle – Goodbye Sober Day]
None of Them Knew They Were Robots – I wish I knew enough about music to know what the hell is happening here. I won't suffer to narrate all the twists and turns of this song but there's a lot to listen here, including a doomish chant of Deus absconditus and Deus nullus deus nisi deus. It's about science, religeon, nanotechnology, gnostic wisdom, god knows what else.[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/02-None-Of-Them-Knew-They-Were-Robots.mp3|titles=Mr. Bungle – None Of Them Knew They Were Robots]
Vanity Fair – I'll go out on a sweet note, cause "you're not human, you're a miracle!"[audio:http://thesweetsnob.com/wp-content/uploads/09-Vanity-Fair.mp3|titles=Mr. Bungle – Vanity Fair]
If this appeals to you at all, please get and listen to this whole album in all of it's gorgeous glory. As far as I'm concerned, it's one for the ages.