When creating a lengthy piece of music, it is much more challenging to employ a technique known to our compositional forefathers as “Theme And Variation” than it is to splice together random, disconnected bits of nonsense. It takes patience, focus, and a dedication that few people have. Rare are those experiences where the listener realizes ten minutes into a composition that the original melody is now being played in a different key, in a different rhythm, and by a different instrument. Gone are the days of the underground harboring the creative elite. Instead, we find a faux-genre of bad ideas that glorifies rehashed experimental (when are they going to stop experimenting and make some good music?) recording projects such as Mike Patton’s Fantomas.
This album, like the rest of his recent albums, are “through-composed,” which is actually just an avant-garde cop-out — meaning in this case that Mike Patton can’t focus on a serious idea for more than thirty seconds (if the listener is lucky) and doesn’t have the ability to do anything truly sophisticated. There aren’t even those rare instances where he indulges in what he is actually good at: SINGING. But that would require actual songs for him to sing — and there aren’t any within a thousand light years of this abysmal black hole of an album.
As for the production: what’s with the prejudice against clarity these days? All of the drums and instruments bleed together and distort like Mike Patton can’t afford good microphones. Even Ween’s first few 4-track albums put this particular low-fi crock of mud to shame. This man could make the best gear in the world sound like dusty, banged-up pawn-fodder — why it requires classically-trained musicians such as Trevor Dunn to properly execute this cruel marketing joke on music fans is left to be justified to any rational mind — it just isn’t good, and no one should buy it. Period.
So here’s an executive summary so you don’t have to listen to the whole thing like I did: Dark, minimalist soundscapes interspersed with 1.) blasts of sloppy death metal 2.) pseudo-ethnic chanting 3.) pretentious percussion noodling (just think shakers and bongos) 4.) superimposed timbres that don’t balance well 4.) radioactive diode sizzles 5.) metallic scraping 6.) people shuffling around in a room 7.) slamming/banging sounds 8.) air chimes 9.) reverbed-out primal screaming [with distortion, how clever!] 10.) some screeching 11.) some samples of random things 12.) the same voices Patton has used on every album since 1995 13.) improvised tasmanian devil tooka-taka, toi, tooka-tooka bullshit 14.) pick scraping 15.) the token retro spring-reverb 16.) backwards whispering 17.) grunting 18.) some wind 19.) delay knob noise 20.) sudden chaos and more pick scraping 21.) an old crackly radio 22.) more metallic scraping 23.) static 24.) beeping 25.) a low pedal drone with spooky keyboards fading in and out [I should have mentioned this one earlier so I could say it’s doing it AGAIN] 26.) humming 27.) some birds chirping and a babbling brook 28.) the same metal chord hit over and over…
…and the final nineteen minutes are decorated with the sound of a needle skipping at the end of a vinyl record. If I have to explain to anyone why this is not in the least clever or funny, I’m on the wrong planet and surrounded by morons.
Truth be told, this is basically Pink Floyd without the good songs — it even has a section with a heartbeat and an alarm clock to self-reference its own lack of invention. Sadly, Mike Patton has become the music industry equivalent to Carrot Top, desperately digging in his suitcase full of cheap gags with the hopes of distracting us from the fact that there is nothing of true substance in his shallow, corny, washed-up routine.
This album, and albums like it, are the reason I’ve gone back to listening to mainstream radio. Go out of business, Ipecac. Please.
Ipecac Records: http://www.ipecac.com/