john zorn

REVIEW: Mike Patton – Adult Themes For Voice (1996)

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MIKE PATTON – Adult Themes For Voice (1996 Tzadik)

I’m a huge Faith No More fan; I think they’re easily one of the most brilliant bands of any genre to grace the stage. I collect their stuff, and occasionally Mike Patton’s solo projects as well. Numerous as they are, I tend to pick and choose today. Back in 1996, that wasn’t the case.

One night, out with T-Rev record shopping, we visited Encore Records in downtown Kitchener. On their shelves, for $24.99, was a Mike Patton solo album called Adult Themes for Voice. I asked the lady at the counter, “Is this any good?”  She responded cryptically, “Well, nobody’s ever returned one.”

I did buy it, not only because I’m a completist, but because the text on the obi strip made it sound so fucking cool:

The debut solo album from a performer/composer who has worked with Mr. Bungle, Kronos Quartet, Faith No More, Bob Ostertag and many others.  Experimental sounds never imagined from just a voice and microphone.  An absolute classic.

Shit, how could I possibly say no after reading that?  I’d have to be a dick not to buy the CD.

Then, we went to go visit Tom at his store, and he put the disc on.  In-store.

First came the wide open eyes, then the chuckles, then the “I can’t believe you spent $25 on this”.

Sorry folks, it’s just not for me.  I know there are people out there who can appreciate this. I’m not one of them. It’s true that Mike Patton can do just about anything with his voice, and here he does just about anything with his voice, except singing. Different screams and guttural sounds are spliced together into brief compositions.  Tape editing is just as important as the vocals, in terms of the final compositions.  At times his voice is percussive, at other times whimpering. At all times, assaulting the ear.  It rarely sounds human at all.  It’s interesting, with the recent release of the new Faith No More album Sol Invictus, how Mike Patton has integrated some of these techniques with their sound.

Being a collector, and being a long-time Faith No More fan, I did keep this album in my library. I found a good use for it: the shorter tracks make for awesome transitions on mix CDs!

1/5

But 5/5 stars if you can listen to something like this regularly; there’s no denying the creativity involved!

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REVIEW: Mr. Bungle – Mr. Bungle (1991)

MR. BUNGLE – Mr. Bungle (1991 Warner)

For the uninitiated, get ready. You’ve never heard anything in your life like Mr. Bungle. Featuring the powerful pipes of Mike Patton, Bungle was his pre-Faith No More band which he admirably kept going through the 90’s before finally calling it a day. This album, produced by John Zorn and completely different than anything Bungle did after, is a challenging first listen for the musically timid.  It is also acutely rewarding, and can only do good in expanding your musical vocabulary. If that ain’t your cup o’ tea, it also has lots of X-rated, adult only lyrics; words that will keep you laughing, disgusted or titillated all the way through. See: “Squeeze Me Macaroni” (sex with food) or “The Girls of Porn”.

Mr. Bungle squeezes multiple genres into single songs, often switching gears multiple times within a minute. Careening joyfully from breakneck-speed horn-laden funk, to death metal guitar with doo-wop vocals, to circus music and beyond, this is not for the meek. This is for the open minded. This is for the bored, those who can no longer handle the same damn songs on the radio all the time, the same keys, chords, time changes and instrumentation. And if you’re a Mike Patton fan already, but somehow missed this, prepare to have your mind blown.The production by John Zorn is perfect. How he managed to arrange all these instruments, samples, and voices together into coherent songs is nothing short of genius. The sound is gloriously crisp. This is Mr. Bungle’s magnum opus.

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Highlights:
  • “Travolta” – Changed to “Quote Unquote” on later pressings for obvious legal reasons.
  • “Squeeze Me Macaroni” – “Hostess Ding Dong wrapped an eggroll around my wong / While Dolly Madison proceded to ping my pong”
  • “The Girls Of Porn” – “The urge is too much to take / All I can think about is playing with myself / It’s time to masturbate / I got my Hustler and I don’t need nothing else”
  • “My Ass Is On Fire” – A memorable shocker ending with Patton chanting “Redundant, redundant, reeeedundant, reDUNdant…”
  • “Stubb (A Dub)” – A song that questions, among other things, if a pet dog believes they will grow up into a human being.

 

Regardless of the contrasting styles and lightning fast changes, after a fashion the album flows, and cannot really be broken down into singles, or put on a mix CD. It needs to be listened to in its entirety, in sequence. And be careful, when turning up the volume during the quiet moments.  You might want it louder to hear some bit of dialogue that’s mixed in too quietly.  That’s just when they blast you with more guitar and horns!

If you don’t like this on first listen, don’t fret. You’ll love it by the 21st. Guaranteed*.

5/5 stars

* I don’t actually honour any guarantees.