Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Sing and rejoice – not!

Gargoyles inevitably come to mind when I listen to this CD; gargoyles on the cornices of cathedrals, every face a mirthless rictus of contempt at the lame efforts of the people below. Obviously, nothing so religious is on the minds of a California band named Faith No More, but the laughs of contempt are plentiful on this bleak and brilliant 1991 album, a scalding litany of middle-age despair, decline and ruin. The title isn’t a drug reference, so far as I can tell; it’s about deterioration, of settling into the long slide toward death, and that pelican on the cover might just as well be death itself. The first song, with Mike Patton’s mocking vocals in full flare, sets the mood:

You are an angel heading for the land of sunshine

And fortune is smiling upon you

Prepare for a series of comfortable miracles

From fasting to feasting

And life to you is a dashing bold adventure

So sing and rejoice

And look for the dream that keeps coming back

Your future

Pat yourself on the back and give yourself a handshake

Cuz everything is not yet lost

You notice immediately when hearing it that the last line means the opposite of what it says, and when Patton spurts: “So sing and rejoice, so sing and rejoice” his tone could not be more mercilessly ironic.

Do you feel sometimes like age is against you?

Sing and rejoice and sing and rejoice

The rest of the songs, with titles like “Middle Age,” “RV,” and “Everything’s Ruined,” only elaborate the mood. (I suddenly noticed, also, one titled "A Small Victory" -- Michele Catalono's inspiration?) Through and through, it’s a young man’s record, full of a young man’s oh-my-God-I’m-thirty! (or almost) vision of the hell of adulthood, one that stares hard at a world where everything only gets worse, where everything – love, marriage, children, sexual adventure, drug addiction, guilt – disintegrates into nothing but, well, dust. The band roars through it all with demonic laughter: isn’t this fun? Aren’t you having a good time?

Not a record you want to play in those dark nights of the soul, perhaps, and maybe not even moderately bright mornings – still, it gave me a nice reflective blast on the way to work today.

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