First Listen: Mike Patton's 'Mondo Cane,' An Inventive Love Letter to Morricone
On the eve of a high-profile Coachella appearance with the reunited Faith No More, the epically strange (and hugely prolific) Mike Patton has announced the May 4 release of his sorta-solo LP, Mondo Cane.
The album rounds up 10 traditional Italian pop songs, along with one Ennio Morricone cover, recorded live at a series of European dates that found Patton backed by a 30-piece orchestra. The classically trained Italians brought to life arrangements that the erstwhile Mr. Bungle (and Fantômas, Peeping Tom, Tomahawk) frontman helped conceive.
West Coast Sound got a chance to preview Mondo Cane, which borrows its title from a famous 1962 Italian shockumentary (which, in turn, nabs the name from an Italian curse meaning "the world is a dog"), and L.A. being the soundtrack mecca of the world, we figured it'd be best to share our first impressions.
Full review, and a mindfuck of a video clip documenting the Godfather of Weird amidst his orchestra in Amsterdam, after the jump. [Ed's note: MUST-SEE VIDEO!]
Having fallen off of the Patton wagon for a couple of years, we can confidently say we're reformed members of that special cult, and it's thanks to this huge-sounding, totally unexpected Italo-pop from a decade that never was. The Freak King's long-running obsession with Morricone (the above clip is a cover of "Deep Down") here reaches its logical apex in a series of songs that pays tribute not only to the legendary film-scorer's homeland, but to Patton's own towering oeuvre.
Specifically, it's Mr. Bungle masterwork California that comes to mind. On opener "Il Cielo In Una Stanza," rainy atmosphere gives way to triumphant strings gives way to a lilting pop that finds Patton crooning con forza, but sans growl or howl. The gypsy spasticity of "Che Notte!" recalls California's "Ars Moriendi" (or Gogol Bordello) but without the hard left turns. On "Ore D'Amore" he soars as he once did on "Retrovertigo." For "Deep Down" he vamps as was his wont on "Sweet Charity."
But there is a key difference between this release and the majority of Patton's enviable back-catalog: there's not a whiff of weird for weird's sake (with all due respect), making Mondo Cane -- and not the regrettably hip-hop infused Peeping Tom -- the true Patton pop record that his acolytes have been waiting for all these years.
Of course, that's not to say Patton takes the easy way out. (Does he ever?) His vocal turns are downright stunning on every single song, and he adds plenty of guttural effects to the mix -- you just have to listen real hard to realize that they didn't originate with the orchestra.
And the orchestra, in turn, is strikingly together even as it infuses the traditional tunes of its country with a little kaleidoscopic flare: the spaghetti western intro to "Quello Che Conta" out-Morricones Ennio himself, and "Ti Offro Da Bere" sports a little Hawaiian surf done Van Dyke Parks-style. In fact, the whole thing is given a light dusting of Tropicalismo.
Which brings us to Mondo Cane's hulking highlight, "Urlo Negro." The album centerpiece (track six) offers the only clear window into Patton's unhinged side, vacillating quite smoothly between harsh screams and vintage world psych. It doesn't take long to make the analogy that none of us ever saw coming: in the hands of our cracked ringmaster, this old Italian song sounds like a brilliant collision between Os Mutantes and Fucked Up. But, like, played by a symphony.
Perhaps more unexpected is the fact that in making a record of big, melodramatic, unabashed pop music, Patton has turned in his most subtle performance yet and the results aren't varied at all. In fact, they're damn good.
Mike Patton's Mondo Cane is due out May 4 on Ipecac Recordings.