Happy Birthday, Mike Patton: His 5 Greatest Albums

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Sunday, Mike Patton turned 45 years old. Tomorrow, the fourth album by his long-running project Tomahawk, entitled Oddfellows, will be released. To say I've got a little bit of Patton fever is an understatement. Maybe some still only know him for Faith No More's rap-metal classic "Epic," which still gets regular radio play 24 years later, but the man has a seriously inestimable body of work spread out across numerous projects in countless genres.

Few artists are as insanely adventurous as Patton, especially within the world of rock music, where you're generally expected to do one thing and one thing only. There's a reason Faith No More never topped "Epic" in terms of sales -- they refused to stick to the script. But with so many damn albums, where does one even get started delving into the mind of Mike Patton? That's where I come in...

5. Peeping Tom, Peeping Tom Essentially a Mike Patton solo project, Peeping Tom is, in a way, a blend of just about every pop format that Patton has ever dabbled in. Described initially by Patton as his idea of what music on the radio should sound like, it definitely doesn't sound anything like what music on the radio really sounds like.

What it does sound like is a blend of Faith No More's direction on that band's final album, 1997's cheekily titled Album of the Year, with Patton's later experiments with trip-hop and hip-hop in bands like Lovage and General Patton vs. The X-Ecutioners. Oddly enough, blending all of these seemingly disparate sounds into a very pop format ends up being one of Patton's most satisfying and enjoyable works.

4. Lovage, Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By Lovage is a collaboration between Patton, Dan the Automator, Jennifer Charles, and Kid Koala. If those first two names made you sit up in your seat, then this is the record for you. Dan the Automator here provides some of his greatest and most sultry beats while continuing the thematic narrative of his Handsome Boy Modeling School project.

Patton and Charles deliver some stunning and sexy duets over those beats, ranging from a stripped-down, lusty cover of the Berlin classic "Sex (I'm A)" to the post-Portishead trip-hop of a song like "To Catch a Thief." In a way, this album is the artists' love letter to both trip-hop and sex, and they do an amazing job.

3. Tomahawk, Anonymous While most prefer the first two Tomahawk albums to this one, they would be wrong. While both their self-titled and Mit Gas albums are more satisfying in a narrower way, due to their inherent metal accessibility, they lack the depth of Anonymous, which takes the virtues of Tomahawk's previous records and combines them with traditional Native American tribal music.

While that may be jarring, it turns out to be brilliant. Just like any of our great folk interpreters from Bob Dylan to Dax Riggs, Tomahawk takes these lost works by anonymous writers and spruces them up while still paying the utmost respect to their cultural heritage and authorship. The result is a transcendent listening experience representing the war-torn heart of the ancient Native American, with enough metal flavoring for just about anyone to relate to it.

2. Faith No More, The Real Thing You may be asking yourself, "How can any so-called serious Mike Patton fan consider The Real Thing one of his best albums?" Because it's just that damn good. For once, the mainstream was really onto something with this one. Yes, "Epic" has grown stale from years of overplaying. On the other hand, the other songs on the album are still richly textured masterworks of pop-rock.

You can't help but be happy when you listen to a song like "Falling to Pieces" or "Underwater Love." At the same time, the album does provide more serious, introspective songs like "Zombie Eaters" and the title track, which really show off the band's talent for making thinking-man's rock music. The Real Thing may not be highly experimental, but it's so extremely enjoyable that you can't deny it.

1. Mr. Bungle, Disco Volante How many albums not only experiment with the very structure of a song, but deliver something you can dance to as well? It's rare, almost unprecedented, but Disco Volante provides it. Mr. Bungle's second album is by far the group's most adventurous, turning traditional songs on their head and spanning multiple genres, yet it still manages to not only satisfy music nerds bored with traditional music but at times headbangers and club kids of all ages too.

Even as perfect a blend as it is, some can find Disco Volante inaccessible or daunting to listen to all at once. When you do penetrate the album however, when it finally clicks, it often can become your favorite work by Patton and his crew of misfits. It's demanding, but it's so worth it.

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