In a move at once inspired and antagonistic, one of the most quietly influential bands in metal reunited last night in Los Angeles … to play zero of the songs that made them influential. For their first show in nearly 20 years, three of Mr. Bungle's founding members — gymnastic vocalist Mike Patton, guitarist Trey Spruance and bassist Trevor Dunn — played no music from the three albums they released between 1991 and 1999, ADD pastiches of metal, funk, ska-punk, jazz, Balkan folk, musique concrète, exotica, circus music and whatever else floated past their radar.
Instead they returned at the Fonda Theatre as a version of the band they were in 1986, curious high school misfits in the northern California nowheresville of Eureka, geeked on thrash and early death metal. In an amazing piece of dream fulfillment, the band was completed by two of the musicians who helped inspire them in their young experiments in speed freakery: Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo. Essentially, an all-star lineup of metal legends gathered together to perform most of a little-heard eight-song cassette demo — The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny — that was made by weirdo kids fresh off playing Camper Van Beethoven and Run-D.M.C. covers at their high school talent show.
The band opened with a mellow version of the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood theme, "Won't You Be My Neighbor" — ending with a death-metal chord, naturally — and it was off to the races. It was fast and furious, the band storming through most of Raging Wrath, a handful of unrecorded songs from the Eighties and a slew of thrash and hardcore covers. The only moment of relief in the entire set was a faithful cover of Seals & Crofts' 1972 soft-rock smash "Summer Breeze," with Lombardo playing glockenspiel (and Patton adding a few bawdy lyrical twists). Otherwise it was an energy blur — and what a blur it was.
If you listen to the actual Raging Wrath demo from 1986, its tinny and busted: recorded on a 4-track, traded via cassette, traded again via MP3 and currently surviving as a YouTube. But last night, songs like "Anarchy Up Your Anus" and "Bungle Grind" were rendered into weapons-grade thrash, full of force, battery and precision. Patton's storied voice has obviously grown more controlled and inventive since he was a teenager, not to mention the years of experience adding to the wild chops of Spruance and Dunn. And, of course, the trio were backed by two of thrash metal's most beloved figures (Ian seemed to be having more fun onstage than anyone).
The covers were quick and inspired, including Circle Jerks ("World Up My Ass") Corrosion of Conformity ("Loss for Words"), Cro-Mags ("Malfunction) and an encore of Exploited's "Fuck the U.S.A." A version of S.O.D.'s problematic "Speak English or Die" was recast in a more woke light as "Speak Spanish or Die." They didn't play a single note of music they recorded for Warner Bros. (save maybe Lombardo tapping out a little bit of the rhythm to Faith No More's "The Real Thing"), but the moshing masses didn't seem too concerned.
Joked Patton, "Not bad for a bunch of fuckin' senior citizens, eh?"
Mr. Bungle, February 5th setlist (via setlist.fm):
Won't You Be My Neighbor (Fred Rogers cover)
Anarchy Up Your Anus
Spreading the Thighs of Death
Loss for Words (Corrosion of Conformity cover)
Malfunction (Cro‐Mags cover)
Raping Your Mind
Meth ("new song")
Evil Satan (with Slayer's Hell Awaits intro)
Summer Breeze (Seals & Crofts cover)
Eracist ("new song")
Cold War (Siege cover)
Hypocrites (with "La Cucaracha" tease)
Speak English or Die (Stormtroopers of Death cover with lyrics changed to "Speak Spanish or Die")
World Up My Ass (Circle Jerks cover)
Sudden Death (with Faith No More's The Real Thing intro)
Fuck the U.S.A. (The Exploited cover)