Sound — 9
Mr. Bungle is a special band. They are one of those bands that you either absolutely love or just "don't get". Their mix of the abstract, the absurd and the avant-garde is what sets them above other bands, but it's what also turns other listeners off. California is Mr. Bungle's last record, and also their most accessible. While their sound is generally more melodic, more focused and brighter than their previous albums, it is still far from anything that resembles your average music. Like their previous albums, musically, this album is all over the place in terms of genre. Songs jump from Romanian folk to metal and from du-wop to the just plain weird and everything in between. Also, like their past two albums, California is a showcase of amazing songwriting. Although Mr. Bungle's music is a sum that is greater than it's parts, the band contains some excellent musicians. The guitarist Trey Spruance is a great guitar player. Not only does he have the technical chops, but he can be a musical chameleon. Whatever genre the music turns to, his guitar licks sound authentic. He never overdoes it. Bassist Trevor Dunn's role of laying down the funk is not as prominent on this record, but his songwriting makes up for it. Drummer Danny Heifetz's contributions are especially more focused on this record, effectively keeping time and beat through some of the odd transitions. Dunn and Heifetz make a great rhythm section. California also has a good deal of orchestration, which makes for an album that is aesthetically pleasing and beautiful at times.
Lyrics — 9
Now is where I'm supposed to talk about the vocalist. Mike Patton is a great vocalist, and that's really all I have to say. On California, however, most of his vocals come through as Sinatra-esque. The vocals always fit with the music. A good deal of the songs have Patton contributing more than one vocal track, making for some great dual-harmonies. As for the lyrics, the lyrics are not only Patton's creation. Spruance, Dunn and Patton seem to take turns with lyrical duties, and this makes for lyrics that are interesting, and never repetitive. As with the music, almost nothing is conventional.
Overall Impression — 10
If you're interested so far, check out the tracks "Retrovertigo", "The Air-Conditioned Nightmare" or "Vanity Fair". Really, you could probably check out any track, because honestly, there is not a stinker on the entire album. I can easily say that California is one of my favorite albums of all time, and after repeated (and I do mean repeated) listens, the album never loses it's touch. This album is an absolute must-have if you're a fan of anything by Mike Patton, or if you are looking for something to break the monotonous cycle of today's music. The only downside that I can admit to is that the album only consists of ten tracks. However, although only at ten tracks, California will not leave you empty. After listening to the closer "Goodbye Sober Day", not only will you be left wanting more, but you'll feel the sad burn that this is Mr. Bungle's last album. Although the band is no more, most members continue their endeavors in other bands that are worth checking out, but before you check out anything else, you need to listen to this album.