You’re a King for a Day when you poop in Axl Rose’s orange juice, and you’re also a King for a Lifetime.
Yo, this be Reuben. I noticed that there hasn’t been a review of anything old in a while, so picked this at random, oh joy.
Genuinely, there is some joy to be had here. Because, this, Faith No More’s penultimate LP release before their initial breakup in ’98, is home to Ricochet, one of my favourite songs of the the decade — and that’s a bigboi statement to make because the 90s had a tonne of choons.
Anyway, for those who don’t know who Faith No More are, I’ll give you some context. Born, apparently, in 1979 (thanks Wikipedia), the boys from San Francisco shredded up small venues across America throughout the 80s, with a signature offbeat funk rock sound fronted by Chuck Mosley’s aptly in-your-face vocals. By the late 80s they brought in a certain Mike Patton, and subsequently drew huge attention their way with copy-cat claims from RHCP’s Anthony Kiedis, alongside, not least, their awesomely bombastic sound which sprung out legendary hits like Epic in their debut chart smasher The Real Thing. They stayed true to form with an arguably even more bombastic follow-up in 1992’s Angel Dust, which with its experimental tendencies, heavy-laden riffage and Patton’s off-the-wall delivery, earned itself such accolades as being called Kerrang!‘s most influential album of all time — and what’s that you say, it’s also in my favourite albums page? That’s right, son. So how’d their mouthful of a follow-up album do?
Simply put, King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime doesn’t reach the same lofty heights as either of FNM’s previous records with Mike Patton. To say it’s a bad album would be a huge overstatement, but it’s not a great album either.
Coming out in the same year as the Chili Peppers’ tumultuous effort One Hot Minute, it shares the same colour scheme on its album sleeve, Fool for a Lifetime went through a similarly tough production process and, as with RHCP’s album of the same year, it is perhaps the band’s most experimental and heavy album to date. Sure, Angel Dust was weird to say the least, but it was probably more grounded and consistently put together than Fool for a Lifetime. Marred by death, departure and accidents, this third effort with Patton is a loopy, inconsistent crevice of madness and anger with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek. About all that keeps it consistent is that it is always changing.
Sometimes, the album schmoozes into bed with you, take the smooth as butter Evidence, sometimes it’s doing its best System of a Down impression before System of a Down were even a thing, take The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, and sometimes it’s flat-out grunge, take Ricochet. Fool for a Lifetime mixes all that and more in a beefy 56 minute runtime.
During this huge runtime, there are some treats in store for ya, I promise. Kick-starting the whole mess is the punky opener Get Out, sounding raw as all hell with a jigging rhythm and some fantastic technical bass and drum-work akin to the best of Nomeansno. Following that up, listeners are treated to one of the greatest grunge songs full stop in Ricochet, proving, if it hadn’t been proven already a thousand times, Faith No More’s intangible ability to transcend sub-genres of rock and metal and play them with the same ease and skill as what they’re used to playing. Perhaps the last bastion of the genre, written on the day of Kurt Cobain’s death in ’94, it seethes with emotion, with Patton’s double-meaning oddball lyrics expertly crooned atop a backdrop of beautifully raw and melodic power chords and that aforementioned technical drum and bass playing. It makes for a powerful song in a very true sense, a goosebump provoker for sure.
Unfortunately however, King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime peaks there and it never quite reaches the same level of quality as that lead single soared to. What mars its quality from that point on is simply its inconsistency. It’s full to the brim with interesting lyrics, but they aren’t translated by Patton into much particularly memorable. His immense delivery is ever-present, and so is his unique personality, but I feel like the lack of strong melodies, like you’re gonna hear in something along the lines of Midlife Crisis or Epic for example, are his downfall here. I mean, it’s not just the vocals that provide the melody, and of course, Faith No More make it work when they aren’t catchy, they’re one of the best at that, but when an album that’s an hour long doesn’t have any particularly memorable moments past the first couple of songs, it’s not gonna have much staying power.
True too, there are many moments where it sounds a bit like a mindless mesh of heavy metal power chords and screaming, and sure, that can work, sometimes it does here, but at points, to my ears at least, the sophistication that I know they can inject into these moments just isn’t there like usual, while the energy seems a little sapped compared to their earlier works. Put Cuckoo for Caca next to Caffiene from Angel Dust, and the comparison doesn’t fare too well for Cuckoo for Caca. The mad sections in Fool for a Lifetime often just don’t click and as a result large chunks of the album are rendered very forgettable.
When the band quiet down in this record, it’s not always brilliant either. Caralho Voader is a prime example of a band not on their best writing form, a song that is instrumentally, structurally and melodically weak, a limp effort that you’re best off skipping. The aforementioned Evidence is a good time though. I gotta be honest, their ability here to pull of smooth jazz-funk is impressive, and Patton is sexy enough to pull the vocals off. Take the Bottle shows sparks of the quality they pulled off with their earlier cover of Easy, a LEGENDARY smoother hit by the band, and while not nearly as memorable, it’s also a good time. And dAMN the album closer Just a Man finishes like it’s the end of the most joyous, greatest album ever, but most of the rest of the song ain’t much cop — go figure. It’s just not consistent.
There are quite a few good times to be had here though, lest we forget. There’s a lot of bits that coulda been left out, and a lot of bits where the troubled production has a clearly bad effect on the music, but I feel it’s not all off-key. The Gentle Art of Making Enemies pulls off early System of a Down better than the band themselves did, while Star A.D is a fun alt-metal flick with trumpets and stabbed guitar jabs present, and holy cRAP okay The Last Man to Know is a monster — THAT’S HOW TO DO IT HEAVY. What seems to me to be the intended centrepiece of the album, King for a Day, has an intriguing mix of acoustic guitars, pianos and power chords, and it really works, thumping in at a very listenable rhythm (Billy Gould, you are a master of the bass guitar). It captures a unique, dramatic and powerful atmosphere well and can pretty well represent the album as a whole, putting together a lot of the elements that pop up in its runtime into one song that really works.
The frustrating thing is, this song should tie the whole record together. All of the components are spread across its runtime and they all come together in this 6-minute beast. But it doesn’t, because the rest of the damn thing is too disjointed, and it is despite the fact there is a very definite atmosphere and consistent tone running through the whole thing. It’s dark, it’s sinister, and it’s emotionally vulnerable, showing in the many foreboding build-up sections and the deep, full pay-offs. Sometimes this sounds awesome and it gives the album a very interesting layer, but too often the music suffers from too much experimentation and stagnant writing.
At the end of the day, King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime is a good album plagued by its origin. It’s the sort of album that gets better as time goes on, an interesting one, and with fantastic moments, but an hour is too long and there’re too many moments of mediocrity to warrant a strong recommendation to anyone bar the Faith No More faithful (you just got hit by a sick pun, suck it). I’d say if you see this in a car-boot for a quid or two (or a dollar, yes, yes), then you can do far, far worse than pick it up, but if you’re new to this band and want to get into ’em, don’t do what I did. I bought this album first.
BEST SONGS: Get Out, Ricochet, Evidence, The Last Man to Know, King for a Day
WORST SONGS: Caralho Voador, Ugly in the Morning
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