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FANTOMAS - London Astoria - 29 May 2004   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Wednesday, 02 June 2004

Smells Like Avant Garde Bullshit.

yeah. Mike Patton's my bitch. My wife now. Me and him, we go way back, back to 1989, in fact, 15 long years when he was just - I dunno - 21 or something, that long haired, floppy fringe baseball kid yanked from out of nowhere to add vocals to Faith No More's The Real Thing album. And then, this spotty kid who'd never been out of nowheresville, population Mr. Bungle, was everywhere.

I've never seen anyone grow up so fast. Within two years he'd transformed into this dark, malformed, goateed trucker guy with a voice that sounded like God himself had wanted him to sing. His voice - the one that INXS and Velvet Revolver had so desperately wanted to poach and that he turned down - is one of the few people that was born to sing. His range is wider and deeper than an ocean. He doesn't sing : he vocalises. So much so he's made whole albums where the only instrument you can hear is his multi-layered voice, effortlessly impersonating a million sounds and sounding like some weird off-kilter band playing inside your head.

And he's only one quarter of the equasion. There's Dave Lomabrdo (ex-Slayer), a drummer who can seemingly play in any style (and often all styles at once), for any length of time, and not even break a sweat. And Buzz Osbourne (The Melvins), the bizarre, frizzyhaired virtuoso who can make a guitar sound like a plane taking off and a small kitten, at the same time. And Trevor Dunn, from Mr. Bungle, Patton's partner-in-crime for the past twenty years in his various bands.

but what we're looking at here isn't rock music. Sure, there's moments when there's bass and drums and guitar and vocals all at once. But tunes? Melodies? Anything even vaguely resembles a tune? Furgeddabhoutit. This is avant garde ambient thrash-jazz. Tracks last somewhere between 13 seconds (the brief, thrash metal cover of Beyonce) and 74 minutes (the new album is a one-song, hour-and-quarter soundtrack to a complex medical operation). And ultimately, it's not something you can enjoy. Even when Patton himself is throwing himself around the stage yelling with the voice that can silence God, and lyrics such as "wakwakwakawakawakawakawakawakachoochoo". Which apart from the odd snatched lyric from 2001's masterful "The Directors Cut", comprising solely of movie theme tunes, is the nearest Fantomas get to anything meaningful.

Sure, there's a full house here. Mike Patton's faithful little bitches, myself included, tolerate this, his tuneless indulgence of ability over melody, as he and his cohorts tantalise and tease the audience with forty second snatches of Metal where a moshpit erupts, before it subsumes into a two minute bass note, endlessly repeated whilst Patton tweaks something on his enormous keyboard racks. Before the band break into a breakneck, 120 second version of the theme tune to "The Omen". Stick to stuff like this guys, its where you really show your talents. Not in those 20-minute long musical pieces where all you can hear is guitar feedback and wind.

Ultimately, Fantomas is a rich mans avant-garde folly. Patton's very own Metal Machine Music. Patton likes to make music that challenges his audience : this challenges melody. Despite my absolute love for almost everything he does, Fantomas live fall into the unloved category. There's no tunes, nothing you can even remember, just a display of pure prog-rock style, avantgarde, meaningless noodling. The audience sit here, or stand, waiting for Patton to kick off and rock, instead of tweaking weird noises out of a keyboard. It's ok, they say, we'll tolerate your indulgences. Your meaningless academic exercise in sound. You'll be round again with Tomahawk soon, and they're much better. Fantomas bore. They disappear into their own world of self-referential, meaningless indulgence, and its boring, and its bullshit.

 Mike Patton might be my bitch, but I sure as hell wouldn't pimp out a lazy lay like this. Game over, man, game over. Lets sit around a campfire, sing some songs, and wait for something important to happen, because it sure as shit ain't here.

Written by markreed on 2005-05-20 10:42:58
having fun are we?

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