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Mike Patton & Jean-Claude Vannier – Corpse Flower

Mike Patton/Jean-Claude Vannier | Ipecac Recordings | 9/19 | Score: 8.5/10

▣ By Carlos Londono

Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Dead Cross) and renowned French composer Jean-Claude Vannier, who is perhaps best known for his work with Serge Gainsbourg, have released Corpse Flower, a 12-song album collaboration.

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Patton and Vannier first met while working back in 2011 on a Gainsbourg retrospective – a complicated project with many different singers that included Patton, a full band, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Vannier as the conductor. Since they both admired each other’s work, their friendship came easily. But it wasn’t until 2017 when they began to trade ideas about the collaboration, and before they knew it, the record began to take its own organic shape.

While Vannier recorded a certain set of musicians in Paris (including all of the strings), Patton assembled and hand-picked a Los Angeles band to handle his parts. They both wrote, arranged and produced their own separate groups. Patton and his engineer, S. Husky Höskulds, mixed the record in Los Angeles. They were both very happy with how their two universes were able to work harmoniously to create one piece of work. Through their process, both Patton and Vannier learned a lot about each other. The rewarding experience taught them about human exchanges, friendship, and how music doesn’t always have to be serious, but that it can be humorous.

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A variety of musicians, both in Los Angeles and Paris, took part in the recording of Corpse Flower with the Los Angeles team including Smokey Hormel (Beck, Johnny Cash), Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, Air, Nine Inch Nails) and James Gadson (Beck, Marvin Gaye). The Parisian players are Denys Lable, Bernard Paganotti (Magma), Daniel Ciampolini, Didier Malherbe, Léonard Le Cloarec and the Bécon Palace String Ensemble. The album’s striking imagery was shot by famed Japanese-American photographer Kenro Izu.

The album opens with the Ballad C.3.3. The song is drawn from Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” poem, which was initially published using the name C.3.3. The beautiful song serves as the perfect opening, and it gives us a glance at the rest of the album. Written by Patton, Camion is another poem driven song, that has a very calm and bluesy feel that just makes you want to hear more.

The album for me starts to get its shape of romance with, Chansons D’Amour. The French definition, “Song of Love”, is a beautiful song with brilliantly edgie lyrics that pour with sadness from heartbreak, and it truly makes you feel it. Check out the second released video from the album now!

Cold Sun, Warm Beer hit my eardrums next, and for the first time, I felt lost for words, and not in a good way. Although the title gave me something to look forward to, I quickly realized the song was going nowhere. Thankfully, Browning was next, and once again I felt captivated. The music complemented the lyrics so well, criminally smooth and fun. Pour me another one bartender, we are back on track!

It’s not over until the fat lady sings, they say- and we get some in Hungry Ghost. With a certain translucent feel that puts you in a trance, the song is haunting and dark. Not one of my favorites on the album, but definitely not the worst. The album’s self-titled song, Corpse Flower came next. The half-french half-english song was one of the strangest of the album. The music has an eerie feel, like it belongs in a Tim Burton film. The lyrics still have the same comical feel like the rest of the album, and towards the middle it sounded like people arguing in french, while Patton repeated “Feed me”, and for a minute reminded me of the movie “Little Shop of Horrors”.

One of the more romantic songs on the album, Isolubles, was next. The song is lyric-driven and the reason this song is special. Patton’s heart just pours out in this one. The simplicity of the love he is describing , is quite beautiful. The album takes a different turn with On Top of The World. The song is wicked, taking edginess to a new level. but without losing the overall calmness of the album. In the chorus, Patton sings about “taking a shit on the earth, and pissing down in flames” making this song just so twisted- and I love it!

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Lyrically one of my favorites of the album is Yardbull. The music captures the feeling of the lyrics like a perfect dance, and I really enjoy it. A School Girl’s Day is more of an art song where Patton tells the story of a young girl’s day, but there is no singing. The music is very dramatic and cool, but this was probably one of my least favorite. Thankfully, this was not the last song, otherwise, it may have left a  bad taste in my mouth. The album quickly redeems itself with the last song, Pink and Bleue. Right from the start, I was already blown away with the beautiful music. It reminded me of a song from the ’50s, but when Patton started to sing, he had me laughing pretty hard. The lyrics are raw, the music is great- it’s a classic Patton song. It just all works so well and I can’t help but love this one.

When it comes to Mike Patton, you never know what you are going to get. In this latest collaboration with Jean-Claude Vannier, it is no different. Its comical edgy lyrics will have you laughing hysterically, while it’s beautiful music will leave you teary eyed. For me, there were a few numbers that I didn’t care as much for, but for the most part, this is a solid collaboration. I do feel that it may get lost with it’s audience, like so many works of art that are often misunderstood. But, it has the capability to be something special – a timeless piece that will resurrect as time goes by. So go listen now, I promise you won’t be disappointed! And Mike, if you are reading this, please let me direct and shoot your next video for Pink and Bleue! I know just what to do. 😉

Click to listen & purchase the album now!

Track Listing:
1. “BALLAD C.3.3”
2. “CAMION”
3. “CHANSONS D’AMOUR”
4. “COLD SUN, WARM BEER”
5. “BROWNING”
6. “HUNGRY GHOST”
7. “CORPSE FLOWER”
8. “INSOLUBLES”
9. “ON TOP OF THE WORLD”
10. “YARD BULL”
11. “A SCHOOL GIRL’S DAY”
12. “PINK AND BLEUE”

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