joel wosk digs Mike Patton…and who doesn’t?
On January 29th, Tomahawk released their fifth album, Oddfellows via Ipecac Recordings. The latest offering from the band fronted by singer Mike Patton (Faith No More, Fantomas, Mr. Bungle) is a suitably surreal and often nightmarish experience, given the style of Mr. Patton’s previous creative endeavors. Never being a band content to create boring music, Tomahawk has produced an album with songs that run the gauntlet from full on rockers to jazzy improvisational freak-outs. However, in the context of the band’s full catalog, Oddfellows is probably the most accessible album the group has released since their eponymous 2001 debut.
Recorded over a period of six days in Nashville, TN, at Easy Eye Sound Studios (owned by The Black Keys front man Dan Auerbach), Oddfellows is the first Tomahawk album to feature bass player Trevor Dunn. Patton and Dunn have been collaborating together since 1985, when they first put together the band, Mr. Bungle, while still in high school. The experimental musical nature of Mr. Bungle as well as Fantomas, another of Mike Patton’s numerous musical outlets also featuring Trevor Dunn, is prevalent on the new album. Rounding out the band’s line-up are drummer John Stanier (Helmet, Battles) and guitar player Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard), creating an experimental hard rock super group of sorts.
Fans of Mike Patton’s previous bands, specifically Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, will find a lot to enjoy on Oddfellows. Tomahawk mixes various styles of music; often times within a single song, creating complex sonic fever dreams that are simultaneously dark and spooky while also being being fiercely energetic. The album has a solid mix of straightforward hard rock songs such as “Oddfellows” and “Stone Letter”, but often times the album follows a darker and stranger path. On the tracks “I.O.U.”, “Rise Up Dirty Waters” and especially “The Quiet Few”, Tomahawk creates music that makes the listener almost feel as if they’ve been trapped in a funhouse with the sound of the band being reflected in one of those distorted mirrors.
Mike Patton’s vocal styles are all over the map on Oddfellows, sometimes displaying a lounge singer croon during the verse that then shifts to a guttural growl during the chorus. This is all fair game as far as the direction of the band is concerned because Tomahawk has never been a group that conforms to any one specific formula. For example, their 2007 album Anonymous, consisted solely of songs inspired by traditional Native American music. It is that element of mystery that makes the music so original and challenging. Oddfellows is not exactly relaxing music and can be pretty haunting at times with its complex layering of sound effects and dissonant voices. Suffice to say, if you listened to this album as you were falling asleep, you would probably have some messed up dreams. However, if you are the kind of person who is already a fan of Tomahawk, you’ll feel right at home.