Mondo Cane is a studio album by Mike Patton released on May 4th, 2010l. In it, the avant-garde vocalist and Californian Faith No More frontman covers Italian pop songs of the ‘40s and ‘50s. It was released on Ipecac Recordings.
The tracks are created from composites of various live performances in Europe, most being from the first, intimate performances in Italy. In a change from earlier Patton efforts, Mondo Cane has been classified in the easy listening and Italian popular music genres, making it his most accessible work yet. Having married the Italian artist Titi Zuccatosta, Patton became a fluent Italian speaker. This helped to develop his interest in Italian music and art which he has also explored on Pranzo Oltranzista (1997) and Laborintus II (2012).
More digestible than these other works, Mondo Cane is a set of covers of cinematic Italian popular songs from the 1950s and 1960s, backed by a forty-piece orchestra, a choir, and a fifteen-piece band. While paying tribute to these esteemed Italian composers and their classic songs, Patton does not shy away from adding his own, as usual, bombastic and eccentric touch, making the album idiosyncratically his as well as a faithful homage. The composers of the songs covered are Bernstein, Bonagura, Buscaglione, Fidenco, Bert Kaempfert, Massara and Murolo. The orchestra performing here is the Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini
Patton first became interested in this musical subject when he was living in his adopted city of Bologna and heard these distinctive Italian pop songs accompanied by orchestras. The album is 36 minutes and 49 seconds in duration. Mondo Cane reached number 2 on the Billboard Classical Albums chart and spent 42 weeks in the charts in total. Patton’s selections make this an album of much variety, ranging from Frank Sinatra-inflected pop to surf rock to psychedelic garage rock.
Il cielo in una stanza
An atmospheric, unnerving ambience begins this filmic piece. Sounds of crawling insects create the sense of a horror movie soundtrack before strings enter and the song section begins.
A jazzy trumpet solo excites the ears in this higher tempo piece.
This romantic ballad has the ambience of a mobster movie from the 1940s or 1950s.
This is the only track on Mondo Cane with any English words, though this is no intervention of Patton’s—Morricone’s original theme from the action movie Danger Diabolik (1968) also makes this Anglophone foray. Since the original soundtrack masters went missing, ‘Deep Down’ is Patton’s resurrection of a charming Morricone composition, one with a lounge and dance hall groove over which Patton savours every note. Morricone is a hero of Patton’s: the label he founded, Ipecac Recordings, reissued the great composer’s material in the 2005 compilation album Crime and Dissonance.
Quello che conta
Patton’s deep vocals warm the embers of this track, a composition by Luigi Tenco which recalls the best of Ennio Morricone. It’s a lyrical work that conjures up images of a Spaghetti Western movie.
Originally by psychedelic garage band The Blackmen’s, this surf rock tune is reworked by Patton with energetic screaming and heavy percussion. A headbanging riot.
This ballad is made up of a spare arrangement of acoustic guitar and vocals. Its breathy, airy production feels intimate and authentic.
L’uomo che non sapeva amare
This is a joyous waltz with a romantic and sentimental feel.
20 km al giorno
Patton’s gravelly and warm vocals are reassuring though not without a hint of his usual sinister touch. The Theremin playing in unison with the brass adds a whimsical feel to this track and the listener is treated to some swinging organ playing.
Ti offro da bere
This track starts with a bassline on piano and some swinging drums. Patton’s vocals here, as throughout Mondo Cane, show a wide range, from being at times acerbic to at others sensitive.
This track begins with a sample of recorded music before a violin serenades the listener. It is originally by seminal singer-songwriter Gino Paoli.
Mondo Cane was produced by Mike Patton, Daniele Luppi and Regione Emilia Romagna. Daniele Luppi also worked as an arranger and digital editor. Patton was an arranger, worked on design, digital editing, layout, overdubs, was an engineer and of course worked as a vocalist. The live recordings were done by Massimo Carli. The mixing was done by S. “Husky” Höskulds. Gavin Lurssen mastered the album. Roberto Monari was an assistant. Anton Riehl was a digital editor, did pre-mixing and worked on post-production.
In the choir are Elena Bacciolo, Roberta Bacciolo, Silvano Borgatta, Beppe Gismondi, Roberta Magnetti and Coralli Di Torino. Fabrizio Aiello is on percussion. Antonio Borghini is on the electric and double bass. Gegè Munari played drums. Riccardo Onori played acoustic and electric guitar. Roy Paci played trumpet. Aldo Sisillo was the conductor. Alessandro “Asso” Stefana played acoustic and electric guitar and mandolin. Vincenzo Vasi played electronics and Theremin.
The cover art is a die-cut design based on poster art produced for one of the first Mondo Cane concerts. The design and layout of the album was provided by Martin Kvamme and Lady T. Rossini Di Lugo worked as an assistant.
Mondo Cane received generally positive reviews. Perceptive critic Jason Lymangrover at All Music, for example, regards Mondo Cane as Patton’s ‘most elaborate endeavour to date’. Despite his own background, the cosmopolitan Patton has fully imbibed the culture, sounding ‘authentically Italian’ on this record, with a profound ability for the language, rolled R’s and all. Nothing jarrs: Patton’s ‘dynamic bombast’, Lymangrover comments, is well suited to the frame of Italian pop, creating an eccentric and intriguing but digestible album.
Alex Young at Consequence of Sound praises Mondo Cane as an album in which ‘Patton can appeal to both new age alternative fans and their grandmothers simultaneously’ and notes that the album is appropriately cinematic, conjuring scenes of Spaghetti Westerns and filmic phantasmagorias.