Album Of The Year (1997)

Album Of The Year (1997)

Complaints with Faith No More’s later output fall apart at Album Of The Year. Released in 1997, the album was recorded with Gould’s former roommate Jon Hudson, who proved to be a more stable addition to the team than Spruance, as well as a more melodically accomplished musician than his predecessor. His biggest songwriting contribution to the record, “Stripsearch,” is actually built around a MIDI loop as opposed to a guitar riff. With Hudson on the team, as well as the core trio of Bordin, Bottum, and Gould intact from the beginning, Faith No More released a more measured and laid-back record than the band had produced previously. Hudson and Bottum in particular seem to speak the same language, and share a talent for bringing out Patton’s gift for big, lovable choruses — even though Album Of The Year is light on riffs, it sounds like a more logical continuation of the prog-pop tunes that anchor Angel Dust. For example, ebullient album highlight “Ashes To Ashes” features Patton sounding almost heartfelt, his voice seemingly trying to burst out of his body.

Put another way, Album Of The Year sounds “mature,” a blasphemous term for a band of self-professed oddballs who had a reputation as crass and scatological pranksters, which may have as much to do with the band splitting as Patton’s unquenchable lust for side projects. However, adulthood treated the band well. All the humor on Album Of The Year, right down to its title, feels a bit crestfallen and self-deprecating, as if the band had aged a decade since King For A Day. The sublime “Last Cup Of Sorrow” telegraphs the band’s falling out while at the same time marrying Patton’s Tom Waits-esque spoken growl with an instantly lovable chorus. Elsewhere, “Naked In Front Of The Computer” predicts both a quintessential piece of Internet-age angst as well as the direction that the Deftones would take their music in years later. Like too much of Faith No More’s discography, it seems a bit too forward-thinking for its own good.

Though it carries the stigma of being the band’s last album before their initial breakup, Album Of The Year charted well in Australia and parts of Europe. That wasn’t enough to keep Faith No More together, however. A year after the album’s release, and in light of Patton’s growing list of side projects, not to mention Bottum’s taste of surprise critical acclaim with his own side project, Imperial Teen, the band parted ways. Patton would go on to record innumerable experimental records as well as front bands like Fantomas and Tomahawk, among others. Bordin, meanwhile, became essentially the drummer-in-residence at Ozzfest, filling in for most of the crap bands that began by imitating Faith No More in the first place. Bottum scored TV and films, while Gould started his own independent label, and Hudson, um, managed real estate.

In retrospect, Album Of The Year seems lightweight, almost relieved, as if the group saw the end of their mutual run together in the distance and found with it a kind of relief. It’s a great record, one that releases all the pent-up frustrations and anger from the previous two. Still, it lacks the nervous tension of their previous work, the sense that anything could happen at any moment in time.

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