Mr. Bungle (self-titled), 1991, Beat Me Up, Lord Music

Mr. Bungle is the self-titled 1991 debut from the bizarre high-school band Mike Patton kept alive even while he was achieving fame and fortune fronting Faith No More. Mr. Bungle's style is impossible to categorize except to call it a blend of rock, ska, funk, and insanity. Mike Patton's musical lunacy comes through loud and clear, in a way that Faith No More only approached on such songs as Caffeine on the album Angel Dust. This album is dark like the woods behind a nighttime carnival, which is where you go to puke when you've gotten sick on the rides. It taps into the deep humanity on display at any circus or carnival, revealing the undercurrent of fragility and absurdity underneath the clown's make-up. It's got a psychedelic feel that simultaneously evokes the wonder of being alive at a carnival and the kind of paranoia that you might feel if you were surrounded by slowly advancing clowns. The message isn't so much "life is like a carnival" as "life is a carnival". That we are all, in our own ways, clowns, masked, good and evil, walking spectacles on display for the world. That deep down, the feelings of awe and revulsion you might get walking through a freakshow tent reflect some dark, unacknowledged discomfort with the costumes of our own bizarre egos. The fears of death and of being alive guide this album from start to finish, as it navigates through the carnival. This album is a veritable tour of the subconscious human mind, it's dreamlike character enhanced by the frequent transitions from one musical space to the next. We visit the realms of childhood and family, sex, violence, perversion, and insanity. This album is a trip, a musical ride on some aging carnival contraption that is scary more because of the rust on the bolts holding it together than for the ways it throws you around. If you don't have a strong stomach, musically speaking, this album isn't for you. But if the idea of being tossed around in a funhouse of humanity in care of the prowess of Mr. Bungle's remarkable musicianship and Mike Patton's freakish vocals appeals to you, this album is a must.