The mixture of sex and romance has been a theme repeated throughout Mike Patton’s music over the years. He’s able to look into the beauty and darkness of something that can be in your face but still eludes your grasp. Peeping Tom is a continuation of this exploration, and while these songs are accessible, anyone who has stayed with Patton since FNM’s fall will know that he balances accessible music with avant-garde sounds.
“Five Seconds” (with beats from Odd Nosdam) immediately pulls the listener in with hints of Middle Eastern sounds. When Patton begins singing it sounds like a Lovage outtake, and one almost expects to hear singer Jenifer Charles. Things get ugly when it switches from smoothed out R&B to metal, with Melvins drummer Dale Crover pounding the skins as if his life depended on it. All of this before the first minute is complete. It sounds like a lunatic asylum, and who better to join in the fracas than Kool Keith, whose contribution to “Getaway” is one of the album’s many high points.
The duet with Bebel Gilberto in “Caipirinha” makes one wish she was around when Mr. Bungle recorded “California.” But the duet with Norah Jones, “Sucker,” will definitely pop the bubble for anyone who has viewed her as nothing more than a lounge jazz chanteuse. She’s been funky for years, not afraid to get dirty when needed. The song is about a man who thinks that his lady is exclusively for him, but her alluring vocal “what makes you think you’re my only lover/the truth kinda hurts, don’t it motherfucker?” comes off as a slyly disguised answer to Jones’ own “Don’t Know Why.”
Peeping Tom is a fun album that caters to Patton’s twisted style of organized chaos, where genius and insanity can hold hands, cuddle, fondle, and tickle the crevices. If this is pop, one wishes more pop artists would be open to this type of creativity without feeling the risk of losing an audience or an endorsement deal.