Album Reviews

Mike Patton – Mondo Cane

(Ipecac) UK release date: 31 May 2010

Mike Patton - Mondo Cane During Faith No More‘s Angel Dust sessions, front man Mike Patton gave an interview that covered such subjects as Escrow, Jim Martin’s absence from the writing process, and his penchant for easy listening, explaining it as being an “extreme” musical form. His love of the crooners soon became evident as the band set about reworking Easy – albeit in a very straight faced manner. They then added This Guy’s In Love With You, Blue Spanish Eyes and I Started a Joke to their arsenal and even started their reunion shows with a swinging version of Peaches & Herb‘s Reunited.

Given Mike Patton’s tendency to adopt any number of musical styles over the course of his career, it’s actually fairly surprising that he’s not recorded something like Mondo Cane sooner – although his appearance on Nathaniel Merriweather‘s Lovage album comes closet in terms of style.

The Mondo Cane project was initially conceived during his time in Italy a decade or so ago. Dedicating himself to the country’s culture, and paying particular attention to the popular music produced there in the ’50s and ’60s, Mondo Cane is an homage to the impassioned grandiose sounds of the era. Although Patton sings the majority of these songs in Italian (and remarkably well it must be said) his unique style is never tempered. For example, he peppers Il Cielo In Una Stanza with a host of rolling R’s making for an interesting percussive edge. Then there’s the breathless romp through The Blackmen‘s Urlo Negro where he reverts back to his familiar rougher bellowed vocal and tortured howl – although the remarkably pop flavoured chorus adds a cheeky wink every so often.

Elsewhere he plays it fairly straight. The lilting folk of Scalinatella sounds as if he’s serenading a muse whilst hidden in a hedge. The Peter Gunn as a clown stomp of Che Notte! is enormous fun as Patton trips across the vocals like Fred Astaire’s cutting a rug in his throat. The theme to L’Uomo Che Non Sapeva Amare switches moods continuously throughout (typical of Patton’s work), taking in a cinematic explosions from the orchestra and contrasting them with more subtle introspective moments.

These songs, penned by such as Ennio Morricone, Mina and Fred Bongusto, have been treated with the utmost respect. Patton has ensured that they are as authentic as possible by employing a 15-strong band together with a 40-piece orchestra. It might say Mike Patton on the sleeve, but the sheer grandeur of the album and the interplay between vocalist and musicians is vital. The cheeky stroll through 20 KM Al Giorno allows Patton to play joyously with the original and the orchestra to make their presence felt whenever his voice is absent. Morricone’s Deep Down is a particular highlight, with Patton really spreading his wings, beautifully soaring and soothing in equal measure. The orchestra too are incredible here, performing with great restraint and adding just the right tone. When a harp cascades across the Burt Bacharach-like groove it’s as though brains might melt.

Having already secured his place as one of the great rock vocalists of his generation, it’s the sheer versatility of Patton’s voice that commands awestruck admiration from fans and other musicians. He’s been pushed to the limit on a number of occasions, not least with his avant-metal band Fantomas and his collaborations with Björk and Rahzel, but Mondo Cane is perhaps his greatest challenge so far. He’s met it.

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