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Album Review

Four years after Disco Volante, Mr. Bungle returns with California, which immediately distinguishes itself from its predecessors — it's probably their most heavily orchestrated record to date and their most melodic overall, as well as the least dependent on rock styles. That's certainly not to imply that this is a tame or immediately accessible record, nor that Mr. Bungle has suddenly gone sane. There is a stronger lounge-music orientation to the group's trademark rapid-fire genre-hopping; we hear more pop, swing, rockabilly, country & western, bossa nova, Hawaiian and Middle Eastern music, jazz, Zappa-esque doo wop, arty funk, post-rock, space-age pop, spaghetti-Western music, warped circus melodies, and even dramatic pseudo-new age, plus just a smidgen of heavy metal. Sure, some of those sounds have appeared on Mr. Bungle records past, but the difference this time is the focus with which the band deploys its arsenal. California is their most concise album to date, clocking in at around 45 minutes; plus, while the song structures are far from traditional, they're edging more in that direction and that greatly helps the listener in making sense of the often random-sounding juxtapositions of musical genres (assuming, of course, that you're supposed to even try to make sense of them). As with any Mr. Bungle album, California requires at least a few listens to pull together, but its particular brand of schizophrenia isn't nearly as impenetrable as that of Disco Volante, even if it will still make you marvel at the fact that such a defiantly odd, uncommercial band recorded for Warner Bros.

Customer Reviews

The Greatest Album Ever Made

Here is the greatest marriage of performance, composition, libretto, and production. This album transcends all else. It is not merely a series of juxtapositions or genre-hybrids, but rather we are set loose within an exploration of development via orchestration, form, timbre, melody, harmony, dynamics, genre, concepts, and production. High's and Low's intertwined, working together to bring about the beauty of the pieces rather than being at opposition with one another to generate drama. There is a sense of desire, passion, regret, humor, and displacement/isolation throughout the album; produced impeccably via the instruments as well as the vocals, and done so with some of the most innovative approaches to nearly ever aspect of the album. Canonical.

One of the three best albums of all time.

The other two are the other two Bungle albums. If anyone has heard the rumors about how much they are supposed to love this band, start with this album. It's the most user-friendly, as it captures Bungle at their most song-oriented. Then go to the first album, then Disco Volante.

While "Sweet Charity" and "Pink Cigarette" are theoretically something you could sing at David Lynch's karaoke night, others like "Ars Moriendi" will leave you with no doubt as to why so many fans refer to these men as geniuses. They are the perfect combination of virtuosity, experimentation, and the flaming balls of rock!


This album is all sorts of amazing.


Formed: 1985 in Eureka, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Mr. Bungle's sound and approach is a unique mix of the experimental, the abstract, and the absurd (in other words, the finer things in life). It all began in 1985, in a small California town named Eureka. The group (bassist Trevor Dunn, drummer Danny Heifetz, alto saxophonist Theo Lengyel, tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Clinton McKinnon, vocalist Mike Patton, and guitarist Trey Spruance) met while in high school and took their moniker from an extremely corny children's educational film regarding bad...
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