365 Days of Mike Patton: “Baby Let’s Play,” Tomahawk (2013)

I like ephemeral, hazy Mike Patton songs with dark lyrical matter, and so, I clearly like “Baby Let’s Play,” off Tomahawk’s final album Oddfellows. The guitar is creepy and Patton’s spooky background chants are heard behind lyrics such as:

Baby, let’s play dead
I got a hole in my head
Yeah, baby, let’s play dumb
Straight to kingdom come
Let the ashes fall
Fall down on me tonight
Bone dry…
Bone dry…
Bone dry…

Take a listen for yourself and feel the entrancement.

Even the abrupt ending of the tune is jarring, kind of like you were just in a minor car accident after taking your eyes off the road for only a half-second.

Pitchfork called “Baby Let’s Play” an “open-ended creeper” that swells “like the score to a dusty horror flick … Keeping things a little uncomfortable is certainly the goal here; these songs have this kind of festering, acid-stomach chemistry to them, weird and unsettling even when they’re not particularly trying to be.”

I think, though, this song is trying to be weird and unsettling. To my ears, that’s exactly the point.

Previously from Tomahawk’s Oddfellows:

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “The Big Kahuna,” Faith No More (1997)

Though it was recorded during the Album of the Year sessions in 1997, “The Big Kahuna” is one of a handful of Faith No More songs that have filtered out to the public even though the tune was never actually released on an album.

Somehow, hearing a B-side like this makes it just a little more interesting when you listen to it. It feels kind of like you’re listening to something you were never supposed to hear.

It’s a frenetic, kinda crazy song that wanders all over the place. It’s certainly good enough to be on an actual FNM album. It’s a fun song, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Previously from Album of the Year:

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Dead Goon,” Mr. Bungle (1991)

If you like disturbing Mr. Bungle themes and lyrics, “Dead Goon” could be exactly what you want to hear. It’s the final tune off Mr. Bungle’s self-titled debut, and at 10 minutes long, it’s a big of a slog.

But it’s worth listening to at least once. Especially if you like hearing a first-person account of a person who accidently kills himself due to auto asphyxiation.

If you can get past the early passage that sounds like a comedy tune performed by Les Claypool and a carnival barker, the song opens into something special about two minutes in.

And honestly, I kind of forgot about it. This song comes so late in the album, and I enjoy so many other aspects of the record that I almost never listen to “Dead Goon” on purpose. But I should, because Patton’s voice is pure and that bass line is funky.

And then it gets carnival-y again (it actually sounds almost the same as Disco Volante’s “Platypus”). And then back to the soft vocals I really love. And back and forth.

The song is almost really great. But it’s hard for me to go from extreme to extreme and back again in the span of a few minutes. Sometimes, I love that aspect of Mr. Bungle. This one, though, is a little jarring. And then there’s that creaking rope at about the 5-minute mark—which, now that we know what the song is about, is an interesting detail.

The lyrical content isn’t the only thing that disturbed Mr. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn about this tune. As he explained on his website, “Dead Goon” was a pain. (For the record, I’m taking his explanation as serious, though he could totally be joking or playing it a little tongue-in-cheek.)

Wrote Dunn, “This bass-line was written by drummer Danny Heifetz (no bassist in their right mind would dream it up ). You will notice that it is basically two chromatic scales starting an octave apart (C#) and collapsing (one ascending, one descending) to a unison (F#). If you play this line on piano with one finger from each hand you will realize what a ridiculous concoction it is. On bass, however, it’s not so easy. It took me a long time to figure out how to play it, and a very short time to forget it.”

If you’d like to see a YouTube cover of that bass line, this dude has you covered.

Previously from Mr. Bungle:

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Highway Star,” Faith No More (1998)

Faith No More (and Mike Patton) loves to play cover songs. You probably have heard its most famous non-original tune—“Easy,” by the Commodores. But the amount of other bands’ material that FNM has played throughout its concert career is seemingly endless.

That includes Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” a song released originally in 1972 that was revitalized by FNM on its final tour in 1997 (before it reformed more than a decade later). According to setlist.fm, the show I saw in Atlanta that year was only the third time the band had played the tune live (though I have no memory of that song at that concert).

The first time FNM fiddled with the song came a few days earlier in Columbus, Ohio. According to New Faith No More, “They did Highway Star like 6-7 times and they were busting up laughing each and every time … in fact if I remember correct at one point Jon [Hudson, the guitarist] started to play “Ashes to Ashes” but Mike stopped him, said the crowd wasn’t good enough to hear that, and they played it again.”

Eventually, a live version made its way to FNM’s post-breakup greatest hits album.

Here’s the Deep Purple version of “Highway Star.”

And FNM’s frenetic live version.

Unlike Deep Purple’s six-minute song, FNM boils it down to about 60 seconds. So, if you don’t enjoy FNM’s cover, at least you don’t have to listen to it for very long.

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365 Days of Mike Patton: YouTube vocal coach reaction, part 2 (2019)

I enjoy watching vocal coaches on YouTube analyze professional singers’ live performances. I enjoy Beth Roars’ channel the most. And of course, as this 365 Days project should hint, I enjoy Mike Patton’s wide music range as well.

This is the second time I’ve analyzed the analyzers (on Day 46, I wrote about this vocal coach’s reaction to a live version of “Midlife Crisis”), and in this case, Roars looks at a variety of Patton songs (because his style is so varied, that’s absolutely the correct approach, although she only listens to his studio recordings).

Roars admits she doesn’t know much of Patton’s work, so she’s obviously in for a treat.

The first two songs she hears are “Get Out” and “Evidence,” which are separated by only one song on the King For a Day album, and her eyes widen at the different vocal styles. Then, she hears “Cuckoo for Caca,” also on King For a Day, and she exclaims with a laugh, “I can’t believe how different it is.”

Throughout her video, Roars marvels at his voice control and his full vocal cord closure. She admits that she’s blown away by his performances.

“It’s like I’m listening to a different person in each clip,” she said.

Yep, and it’s always fun to see somebody experience Patton for the first time—especially if it’s a vocal coach who can truly appreciate his talent.

365 Days of Mike Patton: “A Small Victory,” Faith No More (1992)

Faith No More played some of the biggest shows of its career in 1992 when the band took the opening slot on the Guns N’ Roses/Metallica co-headlining tour. FNM had its biggest hit with “Epic” off The Real Thing album a few years earlier, and in 1992, it had released the Angel Dust follow up. To celebrate that album, FNM played for two months with two of the biggest bands in the world.

I was reminded of that on Tuesday when I went to a relatively small outdoor venue to watch GNR bassist Duff McKagan play his new Americana-sounding, slight country-twanging album, along side a few GNR deep cuts. It was a great show, but there had to be less than 1,000 people there—a long way from when I saw GNR play stadium shows in Houston (in 2016) and in San Antonio (in 2017).

And it was a long way from the GNR/Metallica/FNM tour that was awfully unenjoyable for FNM.

As noted by Faith No More Followers, Slash and Axl Rose loved The Real Thing, and FNM knew how big a shot it was getting to tour with GNR and Metallica.

“It’s fucking amazing that we even got on the tour, one of the biggest tours in the world,” bassist Billy Gould said in 1992…. “I mean, aesthetically we’re different. I think it’s good though. I’ve gotta give Guns N’ Roses credit and give Metallica credit, too. Right now it’s really responsible of them to pick bands that are different because they didn’t have to do that. They could pretty much tour with anybody.”

But it wasn’t always so great for FNM. During the tour, Gould expressed how uncomfortable he felt with the intense atmosphere backstage.

“I hate the whole circus thing, we all hate it,” he said. “But at the moment we don’t have the power to do what we want to do, so we still have to eat a little bit of shit. We almost have the power to control what we do, but not quite, so we’re just gritting our teeth and getting through it best we can. Every band in the world might think they want to open for Guns N’ Roses, but lemme tell you, it’s been a real ugly personal experience, having to deal with all the shit that surrounds this fucking circus. I’ve always hated that aspect of rock music and I’ve never wanted to be part of it, so to find myself being associated with a tour this big kinda sucks.”

Plus, FNM wasn’t always so well received by the GNR and Metallica fans.

“I’d thought our presence there would be totally misplaced,” Patton said in 1992. “We said: we may not like GNR, we may not like playing in open air stadiums in broad daylight, where we sound like shit and look like shit on a much too large stage that wasn’t built for us, and we may not like the fact that people are paying too much money for a ticket…that’s all true. But the fact is: it’s a very good opportunity to reach a large audience that otherwise wouldn’t have come to see us. And that’s good. The other side of it is that we want to headline again. It will happen in October. Playing with a roof over our heads. We’re at our best like that.”

McKagan and Patton, as far as I know, never played together (though McKagan played the role of the “Gimp” at an L.A. FNM show in 2015). Patton was rumored to have received an invitation to audition to be the lead singer of Velvet Revolver—a Slash/McKagan/Matt Sorum post-GNR band. Patton declined.

Anywhere, here’s “A Small Victory,” a song that’s not exactly a favorite of mine from Angel Dust. But that’s OK. Nobody who went to see GNR and Metallica in 1992 heard that tune either. According to setlist.fm, FNM didn’t play the song at all during that monster stadium tour.

Previously from Angel Dust:

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Vanity Fair,” Mr. Bungle (1999)

When Mr. Bungle released its third and final album California in 1999, there was no doubt that it was a departure from the band’s first two albums. It was more melodic and more mainstream. Hell, it was more cohesive.

That wasn’t by accident.

“The only thing I can really say about it is that there are more songs on this record than we’ve ever written together in the past,” Mike Patton told the AV Club in 1999. “When we started writing for this record, it became apparent that we were all writing in the song form more than we ever had, and we said, ‘Hey, it would be fun to do a record of songs.’ As opposed to operettas or jazz improvs or, you know, noise pieces—whatever the hell you want to call them. We thought the stuff seemed really strong, so we stuck with it. It felt natural. An electro-acoustic noise piece or whatever just wouldn’t fit on this record.”

One result is “Vanity Fair,” a song pretty much unlike anything Mr. Bungle produced. It’s about as mainstream as the punk/metal/ska/avante garde/noise/etc band could get. With some doo-wop thrown in for good measure.

According to bassist Trevor Dunn, he was originally going for more of a sultry vibe.

“I had written a slow Marvin Gaye style verse with an awkward bridge and I had sort of lost faith in it as a complete song,” he told Faith No More Followers. “Patton felt more inspired to do something with it than I did and he sped it up into a sort of doo-wop style and wrote a melody over it.”

Though the music is upbeat, one theory gives it a depressing pall. According to New World Ocean

“Vanity Fair,” addresses a society succumbed to the superficiality of cosmetic surgery.  The song’s title could be a reference to the 1846 novel by William Thackeray, a satire on 19th Century English middle and upper class society.  “The reality Vanity Fair reveals is the ugliness in a capitalist society. Thackeray said describing the reality must expose much unpleasant facts”.[28]  Patton reveals the ‘ugliness’ of plastic surgery in the first line:

“You’re not human/You’re a miracle/A preacher with an animal’s face.”

“Animal’s face” is a reference to collagen, a group of proteins found in animal tissue that is widely used in Botox and plastic surgery.  However, the ugliness of the lyrically matter is juxtaposed by what is perhaps the most appeaseable musical matter there is: Doo-Wop.  This displays the album’s essence of irony over nostalgia.

An ironic Patton tune? Sounds about right to me.

Previously from California:

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