Wildly warped and ingeniously intriguing, Mr. Bungle's third album is evidence of a rock band pretendiing to have roots in rock music. California explores an ambiance new to Mr. Bungle, conjuring up the sultry dance moves of Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire; digging through the graveyard of riffs to find English Pop, Elvis, Neil Diamond and Michael Jackson. More meticulously orchestrated, more guided by mistake than their previous releases, California proves that Mr. Bungle cannot escape it's twisted past or twisted future.
Nobody ever accused Mr. Bungle of being suckers for a good melody. The syncopated blasts of cartoonish noise that fill 1991's Mr. Bungle
and 1995's Disco Volante
are one part speed metal and one part Speedy Gonzalez. Initially, the band served as a more aggressive outlet for singer Mike Patton, widely known for his work in Faith No More. But with Faith No More no more, Patton and Mr. Bungle decided to sweeten the Bungle batter with a little songcraft. California
boasts harmonies (yes, harmonies!) that would make the Brothers Wilson proud. Opening with a chorus of seagulls and crashing waves that gives way to slide guitar, strings, and Patton singing (not screaming), the poppy yet symphonic "Sweet Charity" announces that this is not your bike messenger's Mr. Bungle album. Songs like the easy strummin' "Retrovertigo," the sultry Scott Walker-esque "Pink Cigarette," and the orchestral "Vanity Fair" make California
1999's golden-hair surprise. --Bill Crandall