From the look on the majority of the pimply bogan boys’ faces at the close of Metropolis on Friday night, Mr Bungle had done their job: confusion, utter confusion! Because as the fans of Mike Patton’s other band, Faith No More, spent their cash expecting to see more of the same flaccid and accessible muzak, Patton and the scary jazz beast that is Mr Bungle just left them cussing and thinking that the onstage wiring was faulty. Ha ha ha!
With the house stacked to the rafters and the obviously Satanic in-house DJ pumping out Cheryl Crow, on they stode – some in masks, some with dayglo mohawks – to cut straight to the chase with a brooding five-minute sax intro. By this time the people who knew what was to come (which I would guess to be about ten per cent of the enormous crowd) were already wetting themselves laughing about a) the vast sea of vacant stares and b) the sheer collection of noise hardware on stage. Rightly so.
Sound creations (let’s call them songs for argument’s sake) smattered with xylophones of all sizes, driven by the technical wizardry of Heifetz/I Quit on drums, underlaid with the eerie ambience of circus organs and live sampling thrown back into the on-stage mix … the resulting product was astounding, its mind-numbing complexity almost beyond comprehension. And all this bookmarked by extremely brief forays into (somewhat) recognisable traditional song structures (Desert Search For Techno Allah, Quote Unquote, Merry Go Bye Bye).
The “main attraction”, namely Patton (or Vlad Drac, as he is known on the Bungle self-titled album) had determined his place on stage – not out the front bouncing around in one of those FNM technicolour funk metal filmclips, but behind a bank of samplers, sequencers, keyboards and wiring. Even guitarist Scummy/Uncooked Meat Prior To State Vector Collapse/Trey Spruance (that’s his name by the way) had his own rack of keyboards and electronics which he switched between mid-song, mid-riff, sometimes even mid-note.
Judging by the huge pauses before the post-song clapping started, the audience was literally dumbstruck. Maybe they needed cue cards, like John Zorn (a past producer of Mr Bungle material) uses in his Cobra ‘game’ when band members play off against each other?
But clapping or no clapping, Mr Bungle were immaculate in their measured musical anarchy in easily the greatest display of musicianship that I have ever seen. What more could I have expected from a band which caused the premature death of funk metal with a simple adherence to jazz mastery with electric instruments? Bludgeoning the DJ would have sealed it.