Mr. Bungle was an experimental band from Northern California. The band was formed in 1985 while the members were still in high school and was named after a children's educational film regarding bad habits which was featured in a Pee Wee Herman HBO special in the early '80s. Mr. Bungle released four demo tapes in the mid- to late 1980s before being signed to Warner Bros. Records
and releasing three full-length studio albums between 1991 and 1999. The band toured in 2000 to support their last album, but in 2004 they disbanded. Although Mr. Bungle went through several line-up changes early in their career, the longest-serving members were vocalist Mike Patton
, guitarist Trey Spruance, bassist Trevor Dunn, saxophonist Clinton "Bär" McKinnon and drummer Danny Heifetz.
Mr. Bungle frequently incorporated unconventional instruments into their music, including tenor sax, jaw harp, cimbalom, xylophone, glockenspiel, clarinet, ocarina, piano, organ, bongos, and woodblocks. Overlying this were Mike Patton’s vocals, which often used death metal growls, crooning, rapping, screeching, gurgling, or whispering. The arrangement of their songs was also idiosyncratic, often lacking a structured song format and rotating through different genres ranging from slow melodies to thrash-metal. New York Times
journalist Jon Pareles described it as music that “leaps from tempo to tempo, key to key, style to style, all without warning”. Some of the genres they utilized include funk, free jazz, surf rock, punk, heavy metal, klezmer, ska, kecak, avant-jazz, folk, noise rock, pop, doo-wop, funk metal, electronica, swing, space-age pop and exotica, death metal, rockabilly, bossa nova, progressive rock, country and western, circus music, and even video game and cartoon music.Not to be confused with
the puppet who didn't wash his hands in the Beginning Responsibility: Lunchroom Manners
short parodied by RiffTrax note
Tropes associated with Mr. Bungle:
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: "Carousel" includes the lyric "Will Warner Brothers put this record on the shelf?". It's uncertain whether their Self-Titled Album was actually in danger of becoming a Missing Episode, but they apparently felt they had to resort to Getting Crap Past the Radar with that lyric, as the album's liner notes don't include it in print, substituting part of "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" from Grease instead.
- Careful With That Axe - "The Bends" ends with this, as does "Goodbye Sober Day".
- Coincidence Magnet / Weirdness Magnet: While mixing their debut album, a friend gave Trevor Dunn a copy of the porn starring a character named "Mr. Bungle," bizarrely containing the same name as their band's and the short that inspired it. Further, they HAD a song about porn on the album ("Girls of Porn"), and a sample of the short already elsewhere on the album. A sample from the porn was immediately decided to be put on the beginning of Girls.
- Credits Gag: The inside liner notes to Disco Volante credit Danny Heifetz and Theo Lengyel with writing "Nothing", which is a track title that doesn't appear anywhere else on the packaging. Some fans assumed this meant that the noisy jamming at the end of "Merry Go Bye Bye" note was officially titled "Nothing"; However, the credit was just intended as a joke about the fact that neither Heifetz or Lengyel contributed to the songwriting on that particular album.
- A Date with Rosie Palms - "The Girls Of Porn."
- Fake Band: Zigzagged. Although always a real band, they initially tried to present themselves as such, with fake names listed on the album for the band members and they initally played all their shows in costume.
- Fakeout Fadeout: Like My Ass is on Fire, Egg ends with a repetitive heavy outro ("there's no place like home!") featuring two of these. The second is especially unexpected, seemingly adlibbed by the band in-studio, cracking up and stopping halfway through
- Genre Roulette
- Genre Shift: The band was originally a straight up death metal band. By the time they signed and recorded their first album, the death metal background is only heard in small snippets of their Genre Roulette style.
- Hidden Track: The appropriately-titled "Secret Song" is unlisted on Disco Volante, appearing on the same track as "Carry Stress In The Jaw". The LP version actually has "Secret Song" on a double groove with "Carry Stress In The Jaw", meaning you have to place the needle on the record a certain way to hear it. Also notable for Trevor Dunn stepping up to the microphone to sing fourth-wall-breaking lyrics about how the rest of the band kept the song a secret from him and didn't let him play on it. note .
- Last Note Nightmare - Again, "The Bends," "Goodbye Sober Day," and "My Ass Is On Fire."
- Though not outright scary, the Fakeout Fadeout of "Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz" is a trifle startling: The song fades out, then after a few seconds of silence, the music suddenly comes back in much louder, with Mike Patton doing some rather suggestive grunting over it.
- "Pink Cigarette", otherwise a Surprisingly Gentle Song of theirs, has the steady beep of a heart monitor enter the mix near the end of the song - the music and lyrics are suddenly interrupted by the heart monitor flat-lining. It doesn't help that up to that point, the lyrics had been counting down the hours "until you find me dead".
- Lyrical Dissonance - Two big standouts in...
- Stubb (A Dub): Crazed circus mambo metal with lyrics about a dying dog.
- The Girls Of Porn: Upbeat funk metal with ridiculously explicit lyrics. ESPECIALLY the bridge.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Anything from a 1 to an 11, very usually even in the same song, to the point it's impossible to classify them.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The title of "Quote Unquote" was originally "Travolta." Warner, afraid of a lawsuit, asked that they change it. The result was them taking out the name and leaving the quotes, which were then spelled out.
- Rearrange the Song: While touring California, they started playing a significantly altered version of "My Ass Is On Fire": drum-n-bass loops and sections of wordless chanting were added, while much of the funk metal feel was gone, and the Overly-Long Gag ending was skipped entirely. Their live sets otherwise always stuck to songs from whatever their current album was, rounded out with cover songs - they must have decided that if they were going to start playing an old song again, they should try to make it interesting.
- Refuge in Audacity: Both musically and lyrically.
- Rump Roast: "My Ass is On Fire"
- Rouge Angles of Satin: Deliberately invoked by the title of their early demo Bowel Of Chiley. When an unsanctioned re-release of the demo came out, it was mistakenly "corrected" into Bowl Of Chiley.
- Sequel Song: "Sleep (Part II): Carry Stress in the Jaw" and "Sleep (Part III): Phlegmatics" are meant to be part of a Thematic Series that they started with "Slowly Growing Deaf" - basically they all have lyrics which play physical ailments for Body Horror. The reason "Slowly Growing Deaf" isn't explicitly labeled "Sleep (Part I)" is that Trevor Dunn, who wrote the lyrics for the three songs, didn't initially set out to have a trilogy when he wrote it.
- Singing Simlish - Happens from time to time, but the shining example is "Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz"
- "Chemical Marriage" is another example from the same album.
- Spoonerism: A bootlegged video of an early high school talent show performance has the band playing in front of a banner reading "Bister Mungle".
- Stylistic Suck: "Everyone I Went to High School With Is Dead" was intentionally made to be an uncatchy, unlistenable track. It's the lead off track of their second album.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song - The first half of "Retrovertigo", which could almost be called a Power Ballad.
- Some more arguable examples from California are "Sweet Charity", "Vanity Fair", and "Pink Cigarette" - all three have moments that could be described as vaguely "sinister", but have nowhere near the amount of heaviness or bizarre left-turns you'd otherwise expect from the band.
- Another track, "The Holy Filament", could possibly be the most gentle song they've ever done. While it's middle section has some ominous sounds thrown in, the track on a whole is pretty pleasant to listen to.