Former Faith No More frontman interprets Italian pop hits from the 50s and 60s.
Stevie Chick 2010-05-05
What an utterly unpredictable career Mike Patton has enjoyed. Plucked from obscurity in 1989 to front Faith No More, his first album with the group, The Real Thing, scored commercial success with its hook-laden, brashly absurd rap-rock. Several years of touring later, however, and formerly fresh-faced skater-boi Patton now boasted the ugliest goatee rock has ever known, and was growling, belching and crooning his way through avant-metal bruisers and straight-faced saccharine pop covers, a perverse path Faith No More would maintain until their 1998 split.
Exiting the lucrative rap/rock niche as lesser bands swooped in to exploit it, the now-solo Patton founded his own record label (Ipecac), voiced video games, performed movie soundtracks with metal super-group Fantômas, and collaborated with Björk, Norah Jones, The Dillinger Escape Plan and avant-garde composer John Zorn, among many, many others. Inspiration for Mondo Cane, meanwhile, came while Patton was living in Italy with then-wife, Italian artist Titi Zuccatosta, immersing himself in the Italian pop music from the 1950s and 60s that still swamped the country’s radio-waves.
Mondo Cane, then, is a heartfelt tribute to this era, to its wild dynamism, its lush orchestration, its sense of high drama and grand romance. Patton spares no expense in execution of this labour of love, arranging songs by Ennio Morricone, Gino Paoli and Fred Bongusto for a 40-piece orchestra and accompanying choir, his loving ear for detail evident in the Spaghetti Western mouth-harp twang that opens 20km al di Giorno, and the gypsy violin singing away at the close of Ti Offro da Bere.
Patton, who is fluent in Italian and sings as such, easily matches the orchestra for bombast and sweep, perfectly evoking the aching sentimentalism of L’Uomo Che Non Sapeva Amare, heroically hamming-up the Romeo-smarm for Ore D’Amore, and revelling in the vivid vamp of Che Notte! He clearly relishes the heightened emotion of his source material, the album wisely avoiding cheap campiness in favour of respecting the music’s rich sense of drama, while his cover of Urlo Negro, by garage-psychedelicists The Blackmen – ricocheting between rumbling tribal battle music, and a booming chorus so bold it’d make Tom Jones blush – might just be the most gonzo recording of Patton’s none-more-gonzo career.