Mike Patton - Mondo Cane
Ipecac Recordings
Italian Pop
11 songs (36:49)
Release year: 2010
Ipecac Recordings
Reviewed by Goat

It’s pretty fair to say that this album only got time and attention here at Metalreviews.com due to the man behind it. Faith No More and Mr Bungle aside, Mike Patton has a myriad of wacky side-projects, not least those released under his own name, Mondo Cane being the fifth such. These albums seem to be a bit of a dumping ground in general, varying from the utterly bonkers Adult Themes For Voice to the soundtrack to compelling work of modern movie art Crank: High Voltage, and so I find it hard to take this, an album of covers of 50s and 60s Italian Pop songs with backing from a 65-piece orchestra, at face value. I’m not at all familiar with the originals, and I’ll assume that you’re not either, but this doesn’t at all take away from the sheer nutty enjoyability of hearing Mike Patton’s unique voice skilfully bending its way around the Italian language. How many times you can play this and fully enjoy it as much as the first time depends, of course, on how rabid a fanboy of the man’s you are – even with the knowledge that Patton’s past marriage to Italian artist Titi Zuccatosta and full fluency in the language gives him an authenticity that many would lack.

This is a problem with underground and experimental music fans in general, though, in comparison with our more mainstream cousins – Beyoncé suddenly wigging out and releasing an album full of acoustic love songs would be far easier for her fans to accept than if Tom Araya did it, for instance. We’re so used to Patton’s wackiness that any sudden moves towards the mainstream can prove unnerving – is he selling out? What’s he doing? Why’s he doing it? The reception given his Peeping Tom project of 2006 is interesting to compare in hindsight, the ‘ZOMG, Patton does pop!’ reaction being pretty much universal. “ZOMG! Patton does Italian Pop!” will probably be most peoples’ summary of this, and it’s not unfair to the man to say that this is the closest thing to a novelty record that he’s produced yet. Is that a good thing? No, not by any means. His defenders, myself included, have in the past argued that each of his many odd albums have their own deep and distinctive merits, and that if you haven’t understood it, you probably haven’t listened enough. Guys, girls, we’re going to need a new excuse; people failing to appreciate this album of Italian popular music simply do not like Italian popular music, and they have a point. I can’t pretend to have shown much interest in it before now, and I’m not converted to its cause.

The best way to approach this album, then, is to view Patton as the Tarantino of music – creating his own art from his influences, slyly offering an experience that you won’t have felt before, that feels new and strange to you but which is old and tired to someone completely different. Like a Tarantino film, Mondo Cane is an entity in its own right, one that critics will twist themselves into knots to understand but one which fans appreciate simply for what it is. And so, when all is said and done, Mondo Cane is an album full of Italian Pop covers from the 50s and 60s. Most are quiet, a couple are loud, with a bit of yelling on Urio Negro the most aurally violent moment – really, please, do not expect a cavalcade of Avant-Garde madness. As odd as Patton’s voice can seem to newcomers, it undeniably fits in well here, complete with falsetto and almost rapped vocal moments. You could argue that it’s the music’s origins that are the point – how much less strange would an album of Frank Sinatra covers be to us English-speaking types? In all my time spent listening to Mike Patton’s music, however, I’ve come to expect more than strangeness for strangeness’ sake, and the slow realisation that Mondo Cane is an album without much deeper meaning has been a disappointment. Taken at face value the music itself makes up an enjoyable listen and Patton himself is at the top of his game, his voice wonderfully varied and better than ever – if you’re a rabid Pattonite and Mr Bungle’s California is one of your favourite albums ever, you will get more of a kick out of this than most. But personally, this will be going in the same rarely-played pile as Adult Themes For Voice, and I can’t blame Patton or myself for that.

Killing Songs :
All or none, depending
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Mike Patton that we have reviewed:
Mike Patton - The Solitude Of Prime Numbers reviewed by Goat and quoted 50 / 100
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