Fantomas – The Director’s Cut

If he cared to, Mike Patton could be the biggest rock star in the world. He has good looks, a sense of humor, an incredibly sharp wit, an uncanny ear for catchy pop, and a true desire to create music. Everything he touches turns to gold. After Faith No More had released out two mediocre albums, Patton joined the struggling outfit and turned them into one of the biggest bands of the late 80’s/early 90’s.

To understand why Mike Patton ISN’T the biggest rock star in the world is to truly appreciate that which is Mike Patton.

Patton is a musical innovator. Albums like Faith No More’s Angel Dust or anything from Mr. Bungle (one of Patton’s many projects) prove this point. Patton often creates music that is beautiful and catchy. He also creates a lot of noise, often by crossing genres (jazz and death metal, or thrash and circus music) that don’t seem to go together. Unfortunately, so far he hasn’t been able to create both at the same time. Faith No More’s most popular material was Patton’s least favorite. When Patton truly expresses himself, the trade off is marketability. Mr. Bungle’s music tough to listen to at first, but it’s a million times more accessable than Fantomas’ self-titled debut album, which was little more than an experiment in noise.

Patton may have finally found the perfect mix between self-expression and marketability on Fantomas’ second album, The Director’s Cut. Fantomas, a supergroup of sorts, have released an album consisting of sixteen movie soundtrack covers. King Buzzo (Melvins/Guitar), Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer/Drums) and Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle/Bass) round out the group’s odd yet interesting take on the genre of film themes.

The music has been retooled into clever works of pop music mixed with everything from strange keyboard soundscapes to death metal. It’s obvious that the boys want you to think about what you’re hearing, but they haven’t distanced themselves as far from the mainstream this time around. True, you’re probably not going to hear the themes to “Experiment in Terror” or “Charade” on the radio anytime soon, but unlike the first Fantomas album these songs have structure. Strange, complex structures sometimes, but structure none-the-less.

A welcome change from their last release is Patton’s vocals. Their debut release only contained screams and grunts and other gutteral noises, but no actual words – The Director’s Cut makes up for that with Patton doing everything from whispering and singing on “Spider Baby” to using his voice as an instrument on “Rosemary’s Baby.” The rest of the band pulls their weight as well. Buzzo’s guitar has never sounded good, and any Melvin’s fan should get a kick out of this album. Dunn’s bass work compliments everything with his almost lounge-like approach, and Lombardo on the skins plays everything from the oddest of time signatures to blast beat moments, switching back and forth flawlessly.

Some of the songs lack pop-sensibility, but you get the feeling Patton wanted it that way. Just a spoonfull of sugar helps the medicine go down. The album builds to a frenzied head during “The Omen (Ave Satani),” and then levels out with the heavy-yet-calm “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion,” and “Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me,” before bringing the listener back down with “Charade.” “Charade” is a perfect ending to the album, mixing both calm and frantic moments of music.

Patton and Fantomas have created some interesting stuff here. It’s doubtful that you’ll recognize many of the songs, (“Oh! Isn’t that the theme from Der Golem?”) but that’s not really the point here. The band has taken pre-existing material and worked it into something original, interesting, and at times, challenging to listen to. The payoff for investing listening time is great, as the album is a terrific example of what Fantomas is capable of. The album has enough easily accessable material to draw in non-fans, but contains a wealth of challenging music as well to keep you listening for a long time.

This could be the album that gets people to quit referring to Mike Patton as “the former lead singer of Faith No More,” and start calling him “the current lead singer of Fantomas.” The band cut enough tracks for two albums, so a third Fantomas album should be out late 2001/early 2002. Better jump on the bandwagon now.

01. The Godfather
02. Der Golem
03. Experiment in Terror
04. One Step Beyond
05. Night of the Hunter (remix)
06. Cape Fear
07. Rosemary’s Baby
08. The Devil Rides Out (remix)
09. Spider Baby
10. The Omen (Ave Satani)
11. Henry – Portrait of a Serial Killer
12. Vendetta
13. (Blank Track)
14. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion
15. Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me
16. Charade

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