Wednesday, August 15, 2007


The most conventionally rocking ensemble of Mr. Bungle and Fantômas frontman Mike Patton have finally embarked on a project worthy of their name with this release. Unfortunately, they also kind of drop the ball. The music is based on Native American pieces documented in a book found by guitarist Duane Denison, formerly of Jesus Lizard. He and drummer John Stanier recorded backing tracks - bassist Kevin Rutmanis has left the group and no replacement has been announced - and sent them to Patton, who laid his own vocals, electronics and effects on top.

Regrettably, rather than simply using chants, Patton has also written lyrics for many of the songs. Thus "Sun Dance" is actually a song on which he shouts "We're dancin' in the sun/Won't you come along" like he's in a third-tier '70s rock group. "Mescal Rite 1," which features vocals but no lyrics, is much better, despite echoey tablas and humming New Age electronics in the background.

The original idea's merits are apparent when Patton keeps quiet and lets Denison and Stanier interact. Their riffs and rhythms start as Native American-style throbbing, but expand into post-punk space without becoming goofy pastiche. But as is often the case when artists appropriate Native American imagery (or, in this case, the actual music), good intentions are often crushed by lunkheaded execution. This trio should have either gone totally instrumental, or limited Patton to the vocal exhortations on his Fantômas project.

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