Ex–Faith No More frontman/avant-gardist/Ipecac label head Mike Patton tries hard to be Peeping Tom’s Professor Charles Xavier. Like the X-Men’s leader, he’s assembled a fantasy team to fight against homogeneity. But like Xavier’s nemesis Magneto, Patton turns each collaborator’s superpower to evil. He allows beatbox genius Rahzel and usually understated programmer Dan the Automator to bury his soaring vocals on “Mojo,” a melancholy meditation on addiction. He lets Anticon’s noise-loving Odd Nosdam drown the chorus of “Five Seconds” in sludgy digital piss, harshing the mellow of a choice bhangra break. And he indulges ever-evolving hip-hop chameleon Kool Keith to follow his own weirdo muse to the point that “Getaway” sounds like two different songs playing at once. Still, it’s unfair to blame Peeping Tom’s misses on its unwieldy concept—the fault here lies much deeper. Since the days of his skater hairdos in Faith No More, Patton’s aesthetics have been a bit suspect. He may hang out with John Zorn, and Ipecac is a “cool” record label (home to the Locust, Fantomas, and kid606), but Patton still hasn’t quite lost the surfer swagger or crippled Kiedisian flow that made him a pioneer of the worst genre ever to chest-beat its way out of the Golden State: rap-metal. Norah Jones loses a battle to crunchy guitars in “Sucker,” and Patton’s lyrical turds make Faith No More’s monosyllabic 1990 hit “Epic” sound downright Shakespearean: “We’re slurping our linguinis, but we’re sliding on bikinis,” he sings in “How U Feelin?” It makes you wonder whether what Patton calls Peeping Tom’s “musical voyeurism” is in fact a mook-rock fifth column. If the demos Patton sent to his collaborators shared the understated quality of “Caipirinha,” a spare duet with Brazilian chanteuse Bebel Gilberto, it’s intriguing to imagine how great Peeping Tom might have been. But the album sounds like a ProTools session gone haywire, overproduced and counterproduced and setting musicians and genres against one another other. As every X-Men fan knows, Pyro’s fire is formidable, and Iceman can freeze his foes, but when they get too close to each other, their superheroics fizzle.—Justin Moyer

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