Mr. Bungle California

One of the most confusing, entertaining and generally challenging bands in the world has made a record even stranger than either of their first two, 1991’s self-titled metal/jazz/funk conundrum and 1995’s Disco Volante, which embraced even more absurd extremes in both noise, metal and diverse musical influences. That in itself is not the shocking part — the fact that California is intensely harmonious, has only fleeting moments in common with either of its predecessors, and is being labelled a pop album is the rub. Sometimes vocal terrorist, sometimes sultry crooner, Mike Patton responds to the charge. “It’s a poppy release for us, pop meaning there are verses and choruses, parts that repeat each other, it’s structured more in a straightforward, friendly way, like the first one, but musically they’re nothing alike.” With California’s lush harmonies, ‘70s pop influence and generally mellow tones, it is easy to misconstrue what Mr. Bungle are doing; the fact is, they seldom know themselves. “It’s a new approach for us,” says Mike. “We never sat down and said, ‘Let’s make a pop album this time,’ it just happened. We write music individually and then we listen to each other’s tapes. What happened was that we had somehow, cosmically, written similar sounding stuff: ‘That’s like a Neil Diamond song, wow, that one sounds like ABBA, cool, this could all work together.’” As frightening as those comparisons may seem, after listening to California it seems like a natural evolution. Mike attributes the length of time between each Mr. Bungle album as the key to their constantly evolving sound. “We’ve been together 12 years, that sounds like a lot, but this is only our third album. I think that’s why each release is so different from one another, because we are different people each time we record, a lot of things change every four years.” (Warner)