Friday, December 15, 2006

Some words about Mike Patton

I was inspired by a post over at Deus Ex Malocontent to write a bit about what I think is perhaps one of the most talented individuals to enter the music scene in the last 20 years. I am speaking, of course, about Mike Patton, lead singer of (now defunct) Faith No More.

I know, I know. You loved that song Epic. Shut the fuck up for a second.

Epic is perhaps one of the worst songs FNM ever wrote. In fact, it's easily their weakest album. And I'm not saying that in the "I hate it because it's popular" way that people rip on movies that make too much money, despite being very good. I'm saying that because it's the truth. Over the course of a bizarre career, Faith No More released 4 albums (5 if you include Introduce Yourself, the pre-Patton album). They are all fascinating, complex albums, with varying degrees of success. What makes them so engaging is the broad range of musical styles that FNM uses. The rap-esque style that was Epic is, in fact, almost never used again. Patton boasts an amazing voice, capable of twisting and manipulating it for astonishing results. He can move from a Slayer-esque roar to a crooning lull in a heartbeat, so much so that one sometimes feels like there is more than one person singing.

But perhaps the most interesting thing is that each album reads like a person with multiple personality disorder. Each song, for the most part, is Patton playing a role. And the roles are varied and bizarre. From Underwater Love to Surprise! You're Dead, each one is a story about someone. And those "someones" range from vampires to drug dealers to hopeless trailer-park rednecks. Faith No More is one of those bands where if you don't play close attention to the lyrics, you're missing half the fun. Here's a quick rundown of the albums:

The Real Thing (1989) Their first album with Mike Patton. Weird and completely different from what was out at the time, it took the music world in it's hands and shook it up. Unfortunately, it also doomed them to become somewhat one-hit wonders, except for those who took the time to explore it more closely. The standouts on the album are Falling to Pieces, Underwater Love, Edge of the World and From Out of Nowhere. Many get turned off by Pattons high-pitched, almost nasal voice on many of the tracks, but keep listening. Trust me.

Angel Dust (1992) My favorite album of the 90's. Seriously. Freaking brilliant work, that truly defines what people meant when the term "alternative music" was coined. An eclectic combination of rock, punk, country, techno, funk, you name it. Also one of those rare albums that one can listen to from start to finish and never be disappointed. Standouts include RV, a desperate, Drive-By Truckers like track about a man living in a trailer park with no future, contemplating his life. Crack Hitler, about a drug smuggler. Be Aggressive, set to cheerleaders chanting in the background. Kindergarten, about, well, kindergarten. You know what? Forget it. They're all good songs. Buy the album. Really, stop reading and go get it.

King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime (1995)
I'll be honest. I ran out and bought this the day it came out. I listened to it all the way through, shook my head in disgust, stuck it on a shelf and left it there for six months.

Six months later, I gave it another shot, and promptly declared it genius. I have no idea why things happened this way, but there you are. And it remains genius. Almost on par with Angel Dust. Some truly strange stuff on it - Cuckoo for caca, a screaming, raving piece about, I think, being a dog. The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, about basically being a bastard. Take This Bottle, a gentle dirge about drinking yourself to death and then watching your loved ones from afar. I could go on and on. The musical styles range from loving ballads to roaring, feedback-fueled noise-rock. But somehow, they make it work. Sometimes I think on of their greatest gifts has been simply how they arrange the tracks, let alone the compositions themselves.

OK, I gotta get back to work. More later on the final album, Album of the Year, as well as Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk, and other Patton side-projects.

Seriously. Go buy Angel Dust.


micheal said...

i could ramble on aboutthe nuances of pattons work with fantomas, buckethead, the secret chiefs, merzbow. etc etc etc, but it seems that you have it covered.
you are officially now disciple #2.
congratulations! your membership badge and commemorative plate will be shipped to you soon (pending paymnet of shipping and handling).

TK said...

And of course another fave of mine, Lovage!

micheal said...

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm loveage *drooools*

Dunproofin' said...

I couldn't agree more about Angel Dust: screw Linkin Park - FNM were there a good few years earlier and in much better style. Listened to the album again yesterday for the first time in a few years and my god it's still astonishing.

Dustin said...

And Songs to Make Love To, the EP featuring their cover of Easy, which was geniusly almost indistinguishable from the Commodore's original version (also, the only FNM polka: Das Schutzenfest).

Damn fine band. And damn fine singer.