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Music Review: Mike Patton – Mondo Cane

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I have listened to this album a few times and have no idea where to start. Do you ever feel like that? It is not so much a matter of attempting to write a review, it can be as simple as just trying to figure out what it is supposed to be or looking to explain it to a friend. Mondo Cane is one of those albums that strikes me as being pretty far out there. However, it is a Mike Patton release so the far out there should be an assumed part of the equation. Even still, this is quite different than most of the other Patton work I have heard. If I had to recall anything even remotely in the ballpark it would have to be when Faith No More covered "Easy" by The Commodores. Even that isn't quite right.

With Mondo Cane, Mike Patton takes a trip back in time to Italy of the 1950's and 1960's. From this period in time he has plucked a number of Italian pop songs, which he then takes into the studio with a 40-piece orchestra. In the studio, surrounded by the orchestra, he proceeds to churn them through the recesses of the patent-pending Patton-filter, recording the resulting product and unleashing it upon the unsuspecting world. But that is not all, before even getting to the studio, he assumed an alternate identity, changed his hair and clothing style and took the orchestra out on the road, playing a series of live dates where the audience would gain audience with an American singer who seems to have been schooled in the ways of Italian pop since birth.

Patton truly is an interesting individual. Versatile, eclectic, unique, Renaissance man, gonzo, weird, these are just a few of the words I have seen associated with the man of a million voices, versed in a million different styles. Whenever something new catches his eye or ear, he turns his attention on it and proceeds to carve out his own little corner of the genre, turning it into his personal playground. What is even more interesting is that while he may be carving out a little play area, it is always done with his unique verve and with retention of respect for the source. While some of it may be lighthearted, there is never any disrespect involved.

I will admit to not following his career terribly closely, but whenever I cross paths with his work the results are nothing short of fascinating. This goes all the way back to my first experience with Faith No More, to Mr. Bungle, to more recently with Fantomas (how can you not love avant garde metal interpretations of movie themes on Director's Cut?) and Tomahawk (Anonymous is a brilliant album that interprets Native American Music). Mondo Cane is just another side of this always surprising multifaceted artist.

Where Fantomas saw Patton exercising his growls and screams and Tomahawk exercised the sounds he can create (some lyrics, but definitely non-traditional), his crooning here is much more accessible than some other projects, this despite the language barrier (I do not know a lick of Italian). The music is soft and often quite beautiful in its restraint allowing Patton's vocals to have center stage. I do not see this as any sort of vanity project as it could possibly be interpreted. If anything I do not get any impression of vanity or self indulgence, he is an artist of varied tastes who just wants to try it all to the best of his ability.

Just listen to the music, it slides along with buttery smoothness. Patton's voice sounds right at home, occasionally cutting loose with some screams, but primarily living in the clean, intelligible, easy flowing style of the source pop. There are a few performances that demonstrate Patton at his best here.

Listen to the cover of Ennio Moricone's "Deep Down" (from the 1968 film Danger Diabolik), it is insidious in its catchiness and is just a great listen. Another track of note is "Scalinatela" (Massimo Ranieri), accompanied by Spanish guitar, his voice is quite beautiful. I am also fond of "Che Notte!" with its playful almost cartoon-like atmosphere.

Bottomline. I did not know how to start, I am not sure how to end. While this is pretty accessible, it is still weird, wonderful, and intriguing. Patton must be one of the busiest guys in the business, always turning out interesting creations. This is no different. It is fascinating to the last note.

Highly Recommended.

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About Draven99

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Nice Review…

    Yea, “Das Schutzenfest” comes to mind when I listen to this album. I don’t know what else to say either. Mike Patton, imho, is one of the few remaining artists that has no limitations. Everything is open to interpretation and yet his career doesn’t rely on covers. Sure, I didn’t care for Peeping Tom but General Patton vs. The X-Ecutioners was pretty good. I didn’t care for the latest Tomahawk album but I appreciated & respected his vision. You have to take the good & the bad when dealing with such a versatile & talented musician which always leaves me wondering what he will do next. This album was no different except, for me, it marks off another success for Mr. Patton… It’s the perfect blend of 1960 & 2010!

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i’ve always loved how “all over the place” Patton has been in his solo stuff. i loved both Peeping Tom and Pranzo Oltranzista, which come from different ends of the spectrum.

    for some reason, i never cared for either Faith No More or Mr. Bungle.

  • Mike

    Oh please, his hip hop project is crap compare to world class musicians like the guys in FNM and Bungle. What!

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    all opinion mike. i had no use for them.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    @Mark,

    “Pranzo” & “Adult Themes” were fantastic. Though we differ in opinion on FNM & Bungle because those albums were some of the defining moments in my love of music.

    As for me, Fantomas “Director’s Cut” like Chris points out was freaking phenomenal so was their S/T. Tomahawk’s S/T & “Mit Gas” were excellent as well.Again, this guy never seemed to have the sophomore jinx and he always comes out some great material, for the most part…

    *Puts away his Fanboy colors*

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    *BTW* I still like that song that FNM did with Boo Ya Tribe – “Another Body Murdered”. It sits right up there,for me, with Anthrax & P.E.’s collaboration. Unfortunately, it never gets any credit…