Album Review: Tomahawk ‘Oddfellows’: Mike Patton returns to his rock-anthem roots.
Mike Patton loyalists are an open-minded and tolerant lot. The man is a constant ball of nervous energy, with an ADD list of diverse projects. His prolificness can be a daunting proposition.
But as much as fans tolerate his eccentricities, we keep holding out hope he’ll make a new Faith No More album (reforming Mr Bungle would be a close second).
Since neither of those options seem likely, we now have the next best thing. Oddfellows is Patton’s 4th album with Tomahawk, the alt-metal supergroup featuring guitarist Duane Denison (Jesus Lizard), bassist Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle) and drummer John Stanier (Helmet).
Past efforts from the group have been mixed; but this isn’t the case here, and it’s the band’s best output since their début album. It’s tighter, leaner and balls out rocks.
The title track is an off-kilter juggernaut with a great spidery riff from Denison and a powerful Patton bellow.
“I.O.U’s” electronic minimalism references “Stripsearch” off Faith No More’s “Album Of The Year“.
“White Hats/Black Hats” features Patton’s usual absurdist humorous lyrics “sit down in this electric seat of my sexy ass chaise lounge” fused with a pummeling beat and a killer catchy chorus where Patton demands “Show Your Papers Please“!
“A Thousand Eyes” is a real standout; Denison’s spectral palm-muted cinematic guitar riff is equal parts spy film and horror flick, and has an infectious gothic chill .
Two songs scream Mr. Bungle: “Rise Up Dirty Waters” has a jazzy feel ala the album “Disco Volante” ; snaky carnival ride rhythm and dynamic shifts. “Choke Neck’s” swing feel switches from playful to violent, like a manic depressant pendulum. This is surely a by-product of Dunn’s and Patton’s renewed alchemy (Dunn replaced Melvin’s bassist Kevin Rutmanis in 2012).
“The Quiet Few” starts off slow and lumbering but builds in intensity with Patton’s manic delivery perfectly matching the escalating rhythm. The man’s vocal prowess continues to astound, and his voice remains a force of nature.
“I Can Almost See Them” has a tense anticipatory feel and starts off with Patton singing a vocal line similar to Robert Plant’s battle cry in “Immigrant Song”. It never goes for the throat, content to build up knotted dread.
The biggest surprise on the album is ”Stone Letter“; a pop-punk versus leads into the biggest rock hook the band has ever attempted and will have Faith No More fan’s banging their heads in approval. This also applies to the pounding “South Paw” where Patton voices sexual unease “You rub me so wrong/Please keep you clothes on“.
All throughout the Stanier/Dunn rhythm section are a solid, well-oiled instrument of destruction. And Denison remains a truly unique player, combining metal and avant-garde skronk with great fluidity.
The album isn’t perfect; some tracks like “Waratorium” and “Baby Let’s Play Dead” feel more labored than soaring.
But that’s nitpicking; if you’re a hardcore Patton fan that misses the more accessible aspects of his rock vocabulary this will leave you plenty happy.
Want to preview/buy “Oddfellows” by Tomahawk on iTunes or Amazon? Click on the respective links below.