Album Review: Oddfellows by Tomahawk
Posted by RiffRaff
As with any project Mike Patton’s name is attached to, you know you are going to be getting something unique to listen to. Even his most famous and accessible project, Faith No More, was considered to be outrageous and ground breaking when they hit the scene in the late 80’s. When he’s trying to be contemporary (see: his orchestral Italian vocal pop song cover band Mondo Cane), he can never drop that avant-garde stigma he’s branded himself with. And while he does have some really weird projects you couldn’t get me stoned enough to enjoy, for the most part, for as experimental as they are, almost every project he does I feel that even those not particularly into experimental music would find something to like in them. His latest release into the music world is Oddfellows, the fourth album from his project Tomahawk, which also consists of guitarist Duane Denison of The Jesus Lizard, bassist Trevor Dunn of other Patton projects of Mr. Bungle and Fantomas, and drummer John Stanier of Helmet. Needless to say there is a ton of pedigree in the band.
Amidst this pedigree, these guys have consistently released quality albums, and Oddfellows seems to buck this trend a bit. One thing I’ve always like about Tomahawk is they were able to reign in Patton’s insanity to accessible levels while not bringing it in so far that he’s left tame. You could say that they are the closest thing he’s done since Faith No More that isn’t Faith No More. And if you’ve listened to albums by them like the excellent Mit Gas, you know they can get pretty out there. Oddfellows, while still being quite experimental, after a good amount of spins, I’m finding to be rather tame and get a feeling that the bat shit craziness the band wants to unleash is being held back. Very uncommon for something associated with Mr. Patton.
And don’t get me wrong, the songs are far from being bad per se. Tracks like the lead single “Stone Letter” and “White Hats/Black Hats” have a great alt rock sound to them and are completely catchy and “Rise Up Dirty Waters” is classic smooth jazzy Patton weirdness that bring to mind flashes of Mr. Bungle’s California album. But then there are tunes like “A Thousand Eyes” and “Baby Let’s Play _____”. They start out with a great dark atmosphere and get your hopes up that there is something lurking in the dark. But when the song ends, nothing much happened other than an uninspired meander in room with bad lighting. They lack that punch needed to really get you engaged and feeling like that dim lighted room is actually really dark and there’s a psycho lurking around the corner waiting to stab you with the business end of a swordfish. The only one of these dark, slower songs that really hit me was “I.O.U.” which really shows this band can do these style songs damn well when they put their minds to it.
There are also the more ‘metal’ songs on the album, and while they hit all the right notes, they just didn’t really hit me in all the right places. I can’t say they’re bad nor not catchy, but they felt a bit uninspired. There is “South Paw” which sounds like it was taken from a FNM b-side record which I ended up enjoying, but still didn’t really push me to want to push the replay button for another taste. Truth be told, the only tracks off the 13 tracked album that really made me want to listen to them again were the previously mentioned “Stone Letter”, “Rise Up Dirty Waters”, “I.O.U.” and the more metallic and totally excellent “Waratorium”.
Like I said, the album isn’t exactly a bad record, but being one of my favorite artists of all time, I hold the bar for Mike Patton and all of his projects very high. This album came very low of that bar and I’m quite disappointed. Especially after a 6 year wait since their last record Anonymous, which was a f’n stellar album. The music is well performed and there are some cool ideas here and there, but at the end of the day I feel no fire or passion coming from the music and as much as it pains me to do so, I really can’t recommend this album unless you already happen to own the rest of the Tomahawk catalog or don’t mind paying for an album with only about 4 above average and 1 damn great song on it. Peace Love and Metal!!!