Peeping Tom Peeping Tom

[Ipecac; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: underground hip-hop, trip-hop
Others: Lovage, Handsome Boy Modeling School

Mike Patton currently of Fantomas and, presumably, Tomahawk, has a new album out. He was previously the frontman and perceived heart and soul of experimental/avant-rock band Mr. Bungle. He has collaborated with Masami Akita of Merzbow, John Zorn, Dan the Automator, and Björk. He has released an album consisting entirely of sounds made with his mouth recorded in motel rooms and a challenging electro-acoustic composition. He is renowned in many circles for his vocal prowess. He's the founder of Ipecac, a label which should garner tipped hats for introducing substantial audiences to the avant-garde.

In fact, all of these are the only reason anyone gives a shit about Patton. And maybe that rankles him. Sure, it warms our hearts that he gave a major label the finger as a member of Faith No More, but why is that all I'm reading in press regarding Peeping Tom, other than that Norah Jones performs (and says "motherfucker!!"), despite Faith No More being a decade-long dead band? Might the fact that Peeping Tom was a featured artist on MySpace shed some light on the issue? Or that they appeared on Conan? Hell, even the press release disavows any knowledge of Patton's proudest past, save for referring to him as a "noise rock renaissance man." But, Patton himself clears the issue up for us in that very press release: "I don't listen to the radio, but if I did, this is what I'd want it to sound like. This is my version of pop music." POPular music. This is not a condemnation of Patton for wanting to get some recognition, but I won't shy away from identifying this album as just that, an attempt to get a taste of what he last knew with Faith No More. And kudos to him, it would seem he's succeeded.

This makes me go back to Lovage with a closer scrutiny. Because this album sounds almost exactly like that earlier project, which at the time I'd received as a venue for Mike's penchant for vocal sleaze. But maybe it was both Patton, a one-time star, and the Automator, a one-hit-away-from-a-star, reaching for that golden ring, each on the other's shoulders. The popular music market was coming out from the depth of a neo-Disco movement and manufactured bubblegummers crooning about love ”” a backlash was almost certain. And backpack rap was on the rise with acts like Blackalicious and Jurassic 5 breaking through. So, what better than to wrap these two into one! Lovage was a horrible failure, because it was obtuse, bizarre, and maybe a little too bitter.

Peeping Tom has rectified these problems. It has largely straightened out the sound to homogenically eclecto-hop, which an act like Gnarls Barkley proves is ready for mass consumption. And the lyrics are almost without direction, eminently reminiscent of Patton's work with Mr. Bungle, without the defining paranoia and violence, acting as nothing more than an inoffensive showcase for Patton's golden pipes. This has probably sounded like an overwhelmingly negative review up to this point. And while I would put this work near the bottom among Patton's opus, there are still some definitely enjoyable songs. The Fantomas-esque opener "Five Seconds," complete with start and stop chaotic sections, is a high-ranking achievement in the Patton canon, for example, and guests Kool Keith and Bebel Gilberto perform to great results. But you'll be a little underwhelmed by Norah breathily cooing "motherfucker."

1. Five Seconds featuring Odd Nosdam
2. Mojo featuring Rahzel + Dan the Automator
3. Don't Even Trip featuring Amon Tobin
4. Getaway featuring Kool Keith
5. Your Neighborhood Spaceman featuring Jel + Odd Nosdam
6. Kill The DJ featuring Massive Attack
7. Caipirinha featuring Bebel Gilberto
8. Celebrity Death Match featuring Kid Koala
9. How U Feelin? featuring Doseone
10. Sucker featuring Norah Jones
11. We're Not Alone (Remix) featuring Dub Trio