Many fans, myself included, consider the Faith No More lineup that recorded The Real Thing to be the definitive (or “classic”) Faith No More lineup. This lineup made only two studio albums — the first was 1989’s The Real Thing and the second was 1992’s Angel Dust. Both are great — though I think The Real Thing is better. After Angel Dust, guitarist Jim Martin left Faith No More and, frankly, they were never the same without him.
The Real Thing marked the debut of Mike Patton as the new vocalist for Faith No More. Eccentric and deranged, Patton was a man of many voices, though he relied heavily on his bratty, whiny voice on this particular album. Mike has some bats in the belfry, that’s for sure. Meanwhile, Bill Gould was responsible for the bone-rattling (and sometimes funky) bass lines. Helping Gould hold down the rhythm section was drummer Mike Bordin — who, incidentally, was also carrying the torch for “white man with dreads” at the time (while the world was waiting for Adam Duritz to arrive on the scene). Elsewhere, Roddy Bottum provided quite possibly the most integral part of the trademark Faith No More sound — the haunting and atmospheric keyboards. But it was guitarist Jim Martin that did a lot of the heavy lifting with his gnarly riffage. I truly believe it was Martin that was responsible for Faith No More’s heavy metal leanings. As mentioned above, I think Faith No More really suffered once he left. On albums like King For A Day Fool… For A Lifetime (1995) and Album Of The Year (1997), Faith No More let Patton’s eccentricities push them in a direction that I didn’t much care for. Jim Martin has said that The Real Thing is the ideal Faith No More album, and I agree with him! But I digress, my point is that during the era of The Real Thing, Faith No More possessed a magical chemistry that (despite only existing for a short time in the band’s long history) is the biggest reason for the band’s enduring cult legacy.
The Real Thing is best known for the smash hit Epic — a song which prompted many uninformed folks to erroneously label Faith No More as rap metal. This song is the only song on The Real Thing that has any type of “rapping” (if you can even call it that), so I’m not sure why that label stuck to Faith No More. But any discussion of The Real Thing should not start and stop with Epic. The album has so much more to offer. Tracks like From Out Of Nowhere and Falling To Pieces show more of Faith No More’s radio-friendly side. One could argue that either tune is equal to or even better than Epic. Of course, Faith No More also had a twisted, psychotic side. This is best exemplified by the unhinged Surprise! You’re Dead! and my personal fave, the schizoid Zombie Eaters. The cassette and CD editions of The Real Thing added a special treat — a brilliant version of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs. My score: A+