You had to wonder where TOMAHAWK was going to tread next after a two album succession of eccentricities, "Mit Gas" and their assemblage of historic Native American chants through metal and industrial scramblers, "Anonymous". Not so much gambits as simply playing true to what interested the group at the time of their recordings, it stood to reason TOMAHAWK had a bit of a challenge in standing up to the arresting if frankly bizarre "Anonymous".
What "Oddfellows" makes abundantly clear is that TOMAHAWK's listeners should expect the unexpected. With MELVINS bassist Kevin Rutmanis being replaced this time around by, happy happy joy joy, Trevor Dunn of MR. BUNGLE, this keeping-it-in-the-family strategy pays off in a big way. "Oddfellows" is certainly odd when it wants to be (i.e. "Baby Let's Play _____" and "The Quiet Few", for instance), but for fans of the riff-heavy debut album from 2001, this is the one you've been waiting for.
Straight-driving heavy rock jams like "Stone Letter", "White Hats/Black Hats", "South Paw", "Typhoon" and "Warratorium" are guaranteed to raise the adrenaline levels of even the most apathetic. The primary reason these tracks come off as forceful as they do is because Duane Denison, John Stanier and Trevor Dunn whip the snot out of them live in the studio. It can never be understated how much more effective it is to capture a recording live versus the often overcooked method of individual part capture and assimilation. Accordingly, "Oddfellows" is a kick in the ass with dirty shanks and it carries as much of a raw punk tone as it does a messy metal vibe.
It's going to be hard for listeners to avoid cuing up FAITH NO MORE (the final two albums, anyway) inside their minds as this album rolls along. In many spots, "Oddfellows" has a big rock heart about it ("Stone Letter" alone is one of the heftiest cuts TOMAHAWK has ever laid down), while the title track, "A Thousand Eyes", "Choke Neck" and "I.O.U." are unmistakably cut from the same cloth as "Album of the Year".
While Mike Patton is, naturally, the focal point of "Oddfellows" as he is on anything he steps up to, his carpenters of crush give him the extra verve to paint this album in his own inimitable style. Only Patton can wind his esophagus like a slick pimp on the verses of "White Hats/Black Hats", then scour his pipes into gravelly mock gospel yelps. Stay tuned for Patton's hilarious dinkum oil spreading throughout the breakdown on "Rise Up Dirty Waters". Then Patton sounds, of all people, like Elvis Costello on the shuck 'n jiving metal shuffle of "Warratorium". If Lon Chaney was the man of a thousand voices, suffice it to say Mike Patton is the man of a thousand voices.
Yet credit to Denison for his left-of-center surf twangs on the bang-erific "South Paw", giving Mike Patton the opportunity to whisper out the downplayed verses, while punching with remonstrance on the heavy gallops of the choruses. The song is as neurotic as it is step-heavy.
Denison swirls in projected delirium from his narcoleptic guitar jerks on "The Quiet Few". Later the song builds to cataclysmic recklessness in which the entire foursome cuts loose as if possessed of the peyote hangover of "Mescal Rite 1" from "Anonymous".
On the flipside, the faux rag and jazz spritzes through "Rise Up Dirty Waters" and the final cut, "Typhoon", call up the brain-raking apoplexy of MR. BUNGLE. The addition of Trevor Dunn not only opens the dynamics of "Oddfellows", it gives longtimer Patton fans deserved acknowledgement. They've faithfully followed him through some of his more avant garde doings in KAADA, PEEPING TOM, HEMOPHILIAC, GENERAL PATTON VS. THE X-ECUTIONERS and, of course, FANTOMAS, thus "Oddfellows" is their just reward.
"Oddfellows" has moments of subversive restraint that calms the quick-snapped pace of the heavy duty numbers, and they nearly stymie the album's brash tenacity. The majority of this album is just as irreverent as anything Mike Patton has affixed his enduring vocals to, yet it's the easiest album he's done of late to grab onto. "Oddfellows" is the most addictive TOMAHAWK album since the 2001 debut and it's proof positive that Patton knows how to manage the widespread panic dominating his musical id better than anyone alive today.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.