CD Reviews


Mike Patton Mondo Cane (Ipecac)

For the last 20 years, Faith No More frontman Mike Patton has carved a unique path from accomplished mainstream-rock stardom to brilliant cult-genius obscurity. Whether indulging his edgy-metal tendencies with Tomahawk—a band that opened for Tool in Las Vegas many years ago—or pushing the film soundtrack genre to its breaking point with 2009’s Crank: High Voltage score, Patton refuses to be held to any label other than “eccentric” or “avant-garde composer.” His latest weirdly gorgeous opus, Mondo Cane, is (we’re not making this up) an Italian-language pop-song-covers-from-the-’60s album recorded live with a 30-piece orchestra and choir in a piazza in Bologna. One of the tracks, Ennio Morricone’s the psychedelic candy of “Deep Down,” sounds tailor-made for Patton’s cinematic approach and arrangement. But it’s the stripped-down nylon-stringed guitar moments like “Scalinatella” that confirm he’s an emotional, not just a technical, vocal master. ★★★★☆


Sweet Apple Love & Desperation (Tee Pee)

Teaming alt-rock guitar guru (and powerhouse drummer) J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. with two guys from Cleveland glam-punk act Cobra Verde—six-stringer Tim Parnin and vocalist John Petkovic—plus Witch bassist Dave Sweetapple sounds like a surefire recipe for loud, difficult listening. Surprisingly, the result is nothing short of an instant summer pop-rock classic that effortlessly blends irony-enhanced, indie-rock emotionalism with ’70s arena-rock swagger. In other words, imagine if Death Cab for Cutie adopted the Billy Squier songbook, and you arrive at tracks like the beach-flip-flop-on-the-accelerator-pedal ebullience of “Do You Remember?” and the Peter Frampton-esque riff fiesta of “Hold Me, I’m Dying.” According to reports, Petkovic wrote these songs in the white-hot aftermath of his mother’s death. But no amount of melancholy lyrics can undercut this affirmation of life and rock ’n’ roll. ★★★★☆

Welsh Pop

The School Loveless Unbeliever (Elefant)

There have been many attempts on the part of British artists to emulate the Brill Building sound and craft of ’50s and ’60s American pop. Diverse talents such as Elvis Costello and the Housemartins have built songs and, sometimes, entire albums, in tribute to the long-ago artistry of legends such as Carole King. Now Welsh retro-pop outfit The School has fashioned the best Brill approximation in recent memory with their lovely debut effort. Fans of Belle & Sebastian will adore the paisley sweater-vest aesthetic that runs throughout these 13 horn-and-string-kissed gems. Shoot, Grease freaks will absolutely cream for the sock-hop sweetness of “Is He Really Coming Home?” If you’re not too careful, the nimble piano vamping of “Valentine” will have you snapping your fingers and skipping down the sidewalk, even as singer Liz Hunt’s ingénue-enhanced melody compels you to hum along. ★★★★★

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Let the sun shine on your gadgets

Let the sun shine on your gadgets

Looking to take a vacation away from technology? Good luck. These days, it takes a lot of discipline to turn off your Blackberry or iPhone and get away from it all. Even a weeklong camping trip to the Valley of Fire State Park doesn’t mean you’ll be without access to e-mail anymore. OK, it can be tricky to get cell reception, but there’s no need to go without power.