Mr. Bungle never did the obvious. They released three of the least commercially minded albums in major label history, as they moved from clownshoes ska to Lynchian prog before ending with a Technicolor swing/surf rock mash-up. So it’s unsurprising that Bungle weren’t content to spend their reunion racing through their greatest shits. Instead, they decided to re-record their original demo from when they were a teenage thrash metal band, calling on genre icons Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Dave Lombardo (Slayer) to supplement core trio Mike Patton, Trey Spruance and Trevor Dunn.
The result is five middle-aged men playing songs written with the over-confidence of youth. To pigeonhole it as thrash is reductive, as the band’s maniacal attack blurs into skate punk and hardcore. As you’d expect from their collective pedigree, it sounds completely authentic. What’s more, the crisp, contemporary production is a revelation with the finer details bursting out at every moment. It’s a stark contrast to the original demo, which sounded like they were playing in your neighbour’s flooded garage and hurriedly recording everything direct to tape before the C45 ran out.
If you’re of the belief that metal should be deadly serious, this is not for you given Bungle’s curveballs. ‘Hypocrites’ flows into the Spanish folk song ‘La Cucaracha’ like it’s a logical thing to do, while ‘Anarchy Upon Your Anus’ features narration from Rhea Perlman, of ‘Cheers’ fame. The slight downside is that it’s no shortsharpshock like ‘Reign In Blood’, instead opting to continue the beatings until morale improves. Still, if you’re going to reprise a 35-year-old recording, you might as well go the whole hog.
There’s a school of thought that argues Bungle’s talents are wasted in this context. There are no audacious genre- surfers like ‘Goodbye Sober Day’ or ‘Desert Search For Techno Allah’. For believers, it’s great to have them back. Newcomers can use it as an introduction to one of music’s weirder adventurers before deciding whether to shit or get off the pot.
Words: Ben Hopkins
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