Peeping Tom [Ipecac] has arrived
Vincent Francone
5/29/2006 3:21:48 PM

Fans have been waiting close to six years for Mike Patton's "pop" project, Peeping Tom. Fake demos were "leaked" on the Internet and rumors began to circulate that the whole thing was a hoax; that the long anticipated project was never meant to materialize. Patton, famous for being a guy who gets things done, appeared to be fucking with his fans.

But, as is the case with rumors, these speculations were ill founded: the wait has ended; Peeping Tom [Ipecac] has arrived. If Patton was, as he said in interviews, trying to create pop music the way he thinks it ought to sound, then the record stands as a clear indication that pop music is a strange beast that only occasionally hits highs, despite clear efforts.

The best tracks on Peeping Tom are the most straight-forward and lucid. "Mojo", the first single, works beautifully with a little help from producer extraordinaire, Dan the Automator. Short, direct and sublime, it is a perfect pop examination of the loathing that comes with indulgence. How better to communicate the horror of gluttony than with a short, compact song? The real standout track is definitely "Your Neighborhood Spaceman", a song that rides the line between melodic pop sensibility and Patton's own brand of vocal somersaulting. The effect is haunting, compelling and damn near perfect.

If only the rest of the tracks could have followed suit. Not all of them suffer from bad pop culture references (Patton cringingly mentions "Will and Grace" and uses "like a Starbucks chain" in too awkward a simile) as much as banality. "Getaway", featuring a rap by the hit-or-miss Kool Keith, is the very definition of filler, while "Don't Even Trip" represents pop music at its most uninspired and irksome.

Conversely, "Caipirinha" gets better with repeated listens, which seem to suggest that pop music works slowly on the listener, grating at first and then burying itself into the subconscious. The most talked about song, "Sucker" features an annoying little appearance by Norah Jones that does seem to improve by the track's end. The appeal of hearing her say "motherfucker" is, in and of itself, kind of cool, but its charm runs thin quickly. Then again, the second time I listened to the song I found myself singing along with Norah, proving that what at first annoys can become pleasurable. Perhaps pop music works this way because life works this way? We get used to things, come to expect them, even embrace them. Pop music is not a release as much as a representation of the human condition.

Or something.

Peeping Tom functions as an interesting examination of pop music from the viewpoint of one of music's bravest artists. For that reason alone it is a worthwhile endeavor. It features amazing contributors (Kid Koala, Dale Crover of the Melvins, Massive Attack, Ghostdigital's Odd Nosdam, Rahzel) but even with an A-list roster of experimental and indie heroes, this is ultimately still a pop album, and pop albums, by and large, are comprised of a few great songs, some pretty bad ones, and some filler. Kudos to Patton for doing the best anyone could do in this format, but I'll sit and bide my time until the next Fantomas record arrives.


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