Mike Patton and Jean-Claude Vannier – Corpse Flower Review

Didn’t get tickets for next year’s Mr. Bungle shows? Feeling olde because Faith No More’s The Real Thing turns 30 this year? Fear no more, for we have you covered here at Angry Metal Guy, with the latest from the always-restless Mike Patton. Content neither to rest on his FNM laurels, nor to simply rehearse for upcoming concerts, he has teamed up with French composer Jean-Claude Vannier for Corpse Flower, a collection of classically-tinged pop songs. Seems like an odd collaboration, which of course is exactly what we would expect from Patton. Upon closer examination, though, this makes sense. Vannier collaborated with controversial French musician Serge Gainsbourg in the 1970s, and Patton similarly works far off the beaten path – although not as provocatively.

“Ballad C.3.3.” starts this partnership off, with lyrics pulled from an Oscar Wilde poem and narrated by Patton. The music is slick yet odd lounge rock augmented by orchestral strings. If evaluated against Patton’s aforementioned bands, the song comes across as kitschy and contrived, with a hint of self-satisfied silliness. The whole album does, actually, but we shouldn’t be drawing any comparisons. Maybe if you took Faith No More songs such as “RV” or “Caralho Voador” and added a classical music feel to them, you’d have a close approximation of the goings-on in Corpse Flower. The silliest song here is “Cold Sun Warm Beer,” with childlike backing vocals and no real structure. The closest the pair comes to a serious song is “Insolubles,” which features Patton’s best singing on the album and a pretty melody.

Most of the twelve songs here are a disconcerting mix of laid-back rock and classical music. The latter is provided by Vannier and his group of French musicians, while the former comes to us courtesy a number of players from Beck’s band. Seems odd, until you figure out that the old Gainsbourg/Vannier collab Histoire de Melody Nelson is a Beck favorite. Metal fans will find absolutely nothing here to raise their fists to, but the arrangements and instrumentation is a lot of fun to listen to, well-produced, and played. For example, the steamy groove of the title track is cleverly offset by stop-start strings and odd percussion moments. “Yard Bull” almost sounds like a slinky country track, but the Becon Palace String Ensemble gives it a showtune feel.

Most people who grab Corpse Flower aren’t going to be interested in the music, though. It’s Mike Patton we want to hear, and the man does turn in his typically offsetting vocal performance – along with equally offsetting lyrics. He narrates, croons, and groans his way through all sorts of disturbing, profane, and nonsensical lyrics. You want examples? How about in “Corpse Flower,” where he makes “Mollejas, sweetbreads, lardo, chitlins, feed me” sound sexy. Or “Pink and Bleue,” where he gives us “When I drink too much I shit my pants, feel a little maidish, lose my marbles.” Okay, Mike. The most legitimate, mature lyrics come in “Yard Bull,” which opens with “It takes a nation’s greed to do nothing and make it all look wrong.” The song which really stuck in my head, though, which is disturbing on a couple levels, is “A School Girl’s Day,” which quite literally details, um, a school girl’s day – but with a twist at the end. It’s a creepy tune, but really this whole album is weird.

Corpse Flower is a tough album to assign a score to. I know I’ll be coming back to it occasionally, whether it’s to hear something mellow and cleanse my ears, or to freak out some friends with Mike Patton’s whole “eccentric uncle lounge lizard” routine. Some of the songs are a bit too “poop joke-y” for everyone, but the times when he and Jean-Claude Vannier strike the right balance are engaging and entertaining. Patton’s fans will no doubt lap this up, but this is more of a vanity project than a best-seller. And I’m not sure why they put a picture of orchids on the cover of Corpse Flower.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Ipecac Recordings
Websites: mikepatton.bandcamp.com | jeanclaudevannier.fr | facebook.com/mikepatton
Releases Worldwide: September 13th, 2019

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