People love a great comeback story. Anything that shows a triumph against some kind of adversity, especially if you created it yourself, they will lap that up all day long. Some musical acts leave at the top of their game, while others split just in time before fizzing out creatively. When it came to Faith No More’s acrimonious split in the late 90s, it felt like it might have been coming for a while. The band certainly did not burn out their creative spark, nor did they wear out their welcome with fans. They were so prolific, so versatile, and so smart, you knew there would never be another act quite like them. When they came back in 2009 as a live act, they opened their shows with ‘Reunited’, the soft R&B song from 70’s duo Peaches and Herb, as a nod to the fans. After testing the waters with each other, the band decided they could stick together and make new music. Well the long wait is over and Sol Invictus (Reclamation Recordings/Ipecac) is here to put to rest any doubts you may have had about their comeback.
Opening with the title track, the band picks up basically where they left off with 1997’s Album of The Year (Slash). The track sounds right at home with their past, yet has some interesting elements on its own. Gradually easing in like a foot in a fuzzy slipper, it’s an “ah yes…” moment you get to have with yourself as the track envelopes you. Recurring lyrical themes on the album about regeneration, reinvention and that other “re” word we spoke of already begin popping up here too. ‘Superhero’ reminds one that despite being remembered for big commercial hits, at their most accessible they were never a true singles band that was pappy and easily digestible. ‘Sunny Side Up’ is an angsty ballad with great lyrical grist. Most of the tracks have a sonic kinship of the beloved King For A Day…Fool For A Lifetime (Slash) album too: hidden meanings, lyrical twists, massive piano and bass driven songs as a foil for Mike Patton’s emotive soulfulness and rubbery larynx.
‘Separation Anxiety’ is the heaviest track on Sol Invictus and certainly if you are the type of person that pines for the first three FNM albums, this is the song that will resonate with you the most. ‘Cone of Shame’ is wildly dynamic and strange, but also driving and melodious. Patton shows off the most of his insane vocal ability here too. The perfect blend of all of the rollicking elements of the band you want in one track.
Although Billy Gould, who produced the album (except for Patton’s vocals) is always seen as a driving force of the band and definitive mouthpiece, Roddy Bottum’s keyboards dominate this album. All of his weird 80s synth-pop craziness, mixed with his deft jazzbo piano stylings are ever-present in songs such as the torchy ‘Rise of the Fall’, the sinister yet beautiful ‘Matador’, and elsewhere.
‘Black Friday’ is a vampy Cramps-style number, complete with slapback guitars and whipping beats. This is also the track where guitar stands out the most, lending to the idea that without being the heavy guitar driven band of their youth, there is room for all of the parts of the monster to flourish properly. ‘Motherfucker’ is a conundrum of a song. You intrinsically laugh at the notion of a clever pop song as a massive ‘fuck you’ to those in power. Mike Patton as a new-age politicized Beat Poet? Why not! However, the song is undeniably subversive and smart, as is all the best material this band has put out. The build up to the chorus is glorious, Patton’s notes held like the vibrato of a well-bowed cello, hitting you where you live.
‘Back From the Dead’ may sound like a 60s slice of pop, right down to its jangly guitar and churchy “ahs” and “oohs” backing vocals. However the sentiment of “Welcome home my friend…’ in the lyrics could totally be a very meta, and self-referencing. After all; resurrection may be for those who got it wrong the first time, but the same cannot be said of Faith No More whose return is a welcome and worthy one. Let’s hope it lasts as long as it can.