Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Song #3 of 9999 - Malpractice by Faith No More

Song #3 of 9999

Title: Malpractice
Artist: Faith No More
Year: 1992
Album: Angel Dust


When Mike Patton joined Faith No More in 1989, they had already written (and I think, recorded) most of The Real Thing and his job was essentially to make his lyrics and singing style try to fit in with the punk-metal hybrid sound they were working to develop. I don't think anyone at the time thought Patton was more than just your typical 80s metal singer with a punkier hair style (long, but shaved on the sides). Most would not have expected him to become an avant-garde music icon who hangs out with the likes of John Zorn.

Patton's contributions to Angel Dust were significant as he brought a level of musical experimentation and creativity to the band that fell well outside their norm. This song is an amazing achievement of melodic and rhythmic interpolation. The ascending riff Ab - G - E  is followed by a mirror inversion with a retrograde of the rhythm: G - Ab - B. This "verse," which has no discernible vocal melody, is followed by a 5/8 break that sets up a 7/8 section with some of the eeriest vocal and keyboard melodies ever recorded. The chords that follow are major thirds apart, outlining an augmented triad which sets up the eruptive "applause!" chorus. The next guitar riff is also constructed using major thirds. These M3 chord relationships prevent a key from ever being established and the resulting piece is essentially atonal. The intensity of the song is broken up by gentle bells and vocals over the ticking of a "clock." When the heaviness returns, it is layered with a sample of the Kronos Quartet playing the main theme to Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8. This is one of the most dissonant pop songs I've ever heard and it still sounds very fresh almost 20 years later.

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