Let’s fold back the sheets on 2016, this death’s bed of a year, by focusing our attention on one of its brighter moments, an overlooked reissue that fills in the blanks about one of the biggest American-bred bands of the late 1980s and the budding 1990s. Coming now through bassist Billy Gould’s Koolarrow Records, the “deluxe band edition” of Faith No More’s 1987 debut We Care A Lot sounds even more vibrant and vital than it did back in the day, with then-frontman Chuck Mosley sounding particularly engaged on 19 tracks that range from raging alt-punk to highly synthetic art-rock for art-rock’s sake. Has the “original” lineup – if Faith No More, a San Francisco collective dating back to the early 80s, had an “original” lineup – ever sounded so good?
The record begins, of course, with the familiar thumping bass-and-drum line of “We Care A Lot,” a true Faith No More single if ever there was one, and this version featuring the original lyrics about Cabbage Patch Kids, Madonna and Mr. T is particularly smashing for all who know it and know it well. The recording, remastered for the digital era, is crisp and fresh, like it was cut yesterday instead of during the please-kill-me Reagan years. The murky “Why Do You Bother?” also lingers in the memory with menacing synths that hang from the top of your speakers like spiderwebs in the rafters, a rolling drumline that nudges you ever forward, and a passionate delivery from Mosley that sounds like he’s spitting out the words before the venom chokes out his ability to scream. Infective stuff. Truly. PUSH THE ACCELERATOR!
“Greed” plays on one of the key formulas that later made Faith No More a household name with records like The Real Thing – choppy metal guitars, rubbling funk bass and synth washes over a cacophony of Mike “Puff” Bordin’s drums and Mosley’s (later, Mike Patton’s) wailed vocals. Here, though, the form’s not yet formulaic and the boys seem thrilled with the cadences of what they can accomplish with the tools they’re given. The album-proper’s closing songs, which include “Arabian Disco” and the excellent “As The Worm Turns,” don’t disappoint. And the new remasters do the material some serious justice, putting the material, which was released by Mordam and out of print, by my estimation, by the time the group was releasing Angel Dust in 1992, right up in the canon with the best moments on the band’s oddly titled sophomore outing Introduce Yourself and The Real Thing.
Then there are the goodies, live recordings, original demos and a handful of “2016 mixes.” The new mixes are good and “We Care A Lot” and “Pills For Breakfast,” to be sure, sound a little less 80s-dated in their new incantations. (The 80s-datedness of the disc is rather juicy, though.) The demos are great for how they illustrate the band taking some of their concepts and bridges and verses from band rehearsal in garage or basement or loft to the studio.
But, seriously, kids, let’s talk Mosley. The rest of the band, nowadays, is coming off years of international reunion touring and, more recently, a full-length reunion record with Patton (Sol Invictus, on Patton’s Ipecac). But Mosley, as they say, saw it all and he was there first. (Well, Courtney Love, she of Hole and – yes – Faith No More, was there earlier. But that’s another story.) Mosley sounds like he just goddamn fits the band like a glove on these recordings, and it can’t be because they’re dated because he even remains relevant on the 2016 mixes, too. Mosley, in a lot of ways, was the alt-mainstream’s anti-singer of the 80s, almost consciously atonal sometimes, blaring and scabbing-raw and emotional (served him well later in Bad Brains), threatening to waiver off a synthetic march but always giving that synthetic march a heartbeat – all too human, all too human. Patton, who “left” Mr. Bungle to replace him circa The Real Thing, had/has a more colorful and muscular voicebox, to be sure, and is more of a carnival barker, but Mosley frequently steals the show here and for good reason. The material is at his service and the new mixes serve him even better, which one would hope would be a blessing to his solo career. (Longtime FNM fans also might be thrilled to find out that it was Mosley and not Patton, as evidenced on Brixton and 2009 bootlegs, who started the habit of threading charting pop song refrains into the band’s own refrains.)
All in all, the offering is a pleasurable little nugget and a pair of bright eyes to shine through the fog of a dreary year. If nothing else, it will give you pause if you’ve ever thought of Chuck Mosley, in his heyday, as anything less than a great frontman for a great alt-rock band. Track it down.