The Return of the King of Weird
Mike Patton is less a musician and more a multi-instrumentalist crackpot of an institution. His signature style is an outlandish, ever odd take on popular music that has utilized outlets such as film soundtracks, video game voice-overs, and countless band projects. He is consistently extravagant and attracts a fan base through sheer eccentricity and a genial lack of control. Even his unfinished musical ventures and half-musings form interesting conceptual works. Mondo Cane has developed a veil of mysterious romance with fans of Patton, following a handful of live performances and countless delays. The premise of the album is to interpret Italian pop songs of the ‘50s and ‘60s with a 30-piece orchestra and choir. It may sound like overkill, but Patton unleashes a rarely seen lightness of touch to his Italian-language vocals that grounds any pretension that could have gone too far.
Of course, Mondo Cane isn’t for everyone. Unleashing his trademark vocal style on pop music, Patton clashes savagely with today’s popular music as it does on these weathered Italian compositions. Still, the concept has created a very interesting experiment and one that, to Patton’s standards, is hugely tame. He is held in such awe by the shadowy corners of the music industry that he can get away with such bizarre antics as trying to redefine vintage Italian pop.
How Patton has developed the compositions will most probably be missed by his audience; it is likely that most have never heard the originals. The project seems to exist only to answer questions asked by the man’s eccentric musings and doesn’t seem to have any place in music today, contemporary or otherwise. No single track stands out as a masterpiece; they are all an amalgam of the fascinating but flawed genius that is Patton, tainted with the same quirks that smother most of his work.
There is no tunnel into the psyche of Patton in this release, nor is there any clue as to what he intended when he thought up the project. Mondo Cane is not a work of modern genius, but at least it’s proof that Patton hasn’t lost that weird edge that makes him an institution.