Still can’t get enough Mike Patton? This busy, busy man once told us that we wanted it all, but that we couldn’t have it. Well, after six years in the making, Patton is finally giving his fans what they wanted, another genre-blending album that is his most fun and accessible since his “Epic” days. Since Faith No More disbanded in 1988, Patton has gone on with his original band Mr. Bungle, formed new groups in Fantômas and Tomahawk, and collaborated with numerous others including Sepultura and Björk. Patton also started his own label, Ipecac, named after syrup that induces vomiting. While originally meant as a means to release the first Fantômas album, the label and Patton have since gone on to embody the spirit of the label, producing project after project as if they had no valve for shutting it off. Patton has almost as many names for his projects as he has projects, and the latest is called Peeping Tom, named after a 1960 cult British horror film in which a serial killer records the last moments of his victims’ lives on camera. The name, while creepy on a few levels, is apt considering Patton’s aim with this project was to detach himself emotionally from every piece of music. Song files were shared with collaborators and the result is one of Patton’s best collections of work in his career, one that crosses so many styles, it’s sometimes hard to keep track.
The album begins with the hybrid type of song that Patton is famous for, grungy hip-hop funk with a metal influenced heavy-duty chorus. “Five Seconds” reminds us of why we loved Patton in the first place, his infinitely versatile voice. “Mojo,” which features beatboxer Rahzel and Dan the Automator, is like Cypress Hill meets Alice in Chains which is fitting / haunting considering the subject matter of the song, an addict not able to stay his addiction. “Don’t Even Trip” has an infectious sound that is at once a reminder of Prince’s “Thieves in the Temple” as it would have sounded as if remixed by Timbaland. It also has the distinction of having the fun lyric, “I know that assholes grow on trees, but I’m here to trim the leaves.” Amon Tobin contributes to this particular song, which features some of the most ominous bass on record. Kool Keith, aka Dr. Octagon, raps verses to Patton’s chorus on “Getaway.”
Odd Nosdam, who was the featured guest on opener “Five Seconds,” returns with fellow Anticon-er Jel on the eerie “Your Neighborhood Spaceman,” a song with old school P-Funk falsettos alongside Bacharach / Hayes R&B flourishes and more Cypress Hill-like threat rap. Still more popular than ever, Massive Attack takes a break from House, M.D. to contribute to one of the best tracks on the album, “Kill the DJ.” Again, the name of the game with the electronic sounds is `menacing,’ but this song seems to add a soul and some humanization to the mix. Just to demonstrate how versatile Patton can be, he goes from the severe electronics of “Kill the DJ” to the at times soothing Brazilian nature of “Caipirinha” featuring guest vocalist Bebel Gilberto. Patton’s falsetto even gets near as high as his duet partner! If you listen closely, you can hear Gilberto humming the notes to “Call Me” as written by Tony Hatch, which was once performed by her father’s first wife (not her mother) Astrud Gilberto!
“Celebrity Death Match” is somewhat of a throwaway song with Patton doing sing-songy verse rhymes with funny shout outs to Keanu Reeves, Dirk Diggler, Beyoncé, Will & Grace, Michael Bolton, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Lopez and R. Kelly. “How U Feelin?” features lyrics that aren’t any better, but at least the music gets back to the album’s diverse beginnings. “Sucker” is probably the oddest collaboration on the record, at least on paper, but the combination of Patton and Norah Jones is somewhat surprising. Jones leaves behind her country, jazz and blues personae and becomes the consummate bad girl, even panting at the end of the song. It’s almost enough to be every male NPR listener’s fantasies come true. The album closes with a song that first appeared on Dub Trio’s album (albeit only two weeks earlier), New Heavy, “We’re Not Alone,” however the Peeping Tom version is a remix. The pairing is one of the best on the record, with two versatile acts doing what they do best, Dub Trio combining a host of hard rock and hip-hop styles and Patton screaming like its 1988.
The Peeping Tom project is the dark side of the Postal Service. Just like Gibbard and Tamborello, Mike Patton traded files through the mail with various collaborators. But rather than creating dance music for emo kids, Peeping Tom is about reflecting darkness, like the movie from whence Patton took the name, viewing evil through a lens, distanced but real. He describes the songs on the Peeping Tom project as songs he would want to hear on the radio, if he actually listened to the radio. While this may not be what radio programmers across the country are getting from Peeping Tom, it is at least as great a return to form from Mike Patton as anyone could have expected.
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