Review Summary: Free of puke noises and sung almost exclusively in Italian, Mondo Cane reminds us that, if nothing else, Mike Patton can still carry a tune.
A lot of us have probably gone through a Mike Patton phase. Usually it starts in the discovery of either Faith No More or Mr. Bungle and then proceeds into the quick consumption of almost everything he's ever released. And he's released a lot of music. What follows tends to be crippling disappointment, because while Mike Patton is undoubtedly one of the more talented vocalists of the last two decades, he's allowed himself, or his talent, to get the better of him. As a result, somewhere around the time when he decided to found his own label, he started to sing less and less frequently and his projects quickly got weirder and worse. It's fitting that his label would be called Ipecac, since I often characterize non-Faith No More and non-Mr. Bungle Patton projects as the “puke noise”-era. Even though I like most of his work with Fantomas, and even though I can tolerate or at least ignore everything else, I'll always prefer just hearing him sing. Peeping Tom came close to quenching that desire but it failed to hit the spot entirely. Enter Mondo Cane
On paper, Mondo Cane
might be Patton's worst idea yet. Perhaps influenced by famed film composer Ennio Morricone, Patton sought the help of a 30 piece orchestra to record an album of 50s and 60s Italian pop covers, which he sings entirely in their native tongue. Would you believe it's his best work in close to a decade?
Sonically, Mondo Cane
falls remarkably close to Mr. Bungle's California
, though it's not to say it really sounds anything like it. Mondo Cane
is structurally as close to the source material as you can get. On the sparse, romantically inclined “Scalinatella”, Patton's lower register waltzes along an acoustic guitar, playfully bouncing his words in the chorus and its this playful sensibility that propels each track into immediate likeability. Both “Che Notte!” and “20 KM AI Giorno” have Patton working as a compliment to a bouncy contingency of horns, with the former developing into a piano-driven trumpet solo before the sounds of passing cars and down-winding percussion creating a pause before his words rejoin. “Deep Down”, originally a Morricone track, teases as Patton occasionally belts out its title in a lower register, singing at his most powerful, before quickly turning to his falsetto. Bordering on what you could call a “surf rock” track, “Urlo Negro” is the requisite abrasive number, contrasting its fun-loving grooves with what can only be described as Patton having a temper tantrum. He sings the chorus, but not before shouting and yelling along side a growing gaggle of guitars and horns, his voice unnecessarily distorted in its higher shouts.
If there's one stinker on the album, “Urlo Negro” is probably the only option. That's because while it may sometimes be too fluffy for its own good, it manages to be so easily digestible that one can't help but cracking a smile when its on. And while it's far from California
the second, the occasional nod, usually in the form of the occasionally Spruance reminiscent guitar-work, there's enough familiarity here for it to appeal to both Patton fans and what I can only imagine to be a relatively small niche of fans who actively seek out 60 year old Italian pop covers. Mondo Cane
is a summer-time staple and a faithful reminder that Mike Patton can sing but sadly little else.