It’s been a long time hasn’t it? But what an amazing album.
A summation of all the best aspects of Mike Patton’s career, including some of his best collaborators, Oddfellows is a must-have record that already puts Tomahawk on 2013’s best-of lists.
Rumour has it that all parties were told (by each other) to keep the artsy fartsy stuff to a minimum and play basic rock and roll. The result?
The result in nothing short of phenomenal. Tomahawk has never made a frivolous record but they’ve never made a record as immediate as Oddfellows. It’s catchy to the point of being worrying and in some way serves as a perfect storm collecting the staccato guitar melodies of Morricone, layered percussive rock of Battles, chordal progressions of California-era Bungle and a dark anthemic mystique reminiscent of Faith No More.
However there are distinct moods at play here. While on the one hand it’s a bunch of 40-something musicians re-capturing teenbeat (South Paw) and while limiting their palette, overlaying basic colours in fascinating ways that are tense, unexpected and arresting. On the other hand there are complex new-primitive songs that recall Italian Police soundtracks or their latter scions, Japanese animated classicists Soil and “Pimp” Sessions (Rise Up Dirty Waters).
It can be argued that Patton has tested his fans with an intentionally uneven output over the last decade or so. However, on Oddfellows people are given exactly what they’ve wanted. Is it a bad thing that we’re given an album of the classic-era Patton that we’ve learned to revere? No way.
Patton slips from soulful sensual crooning to joyous screaming, to accusative petulance and back to sophisticated creepiness in a palpitation, all the while maintaining a meaningful distance. Who knows what he’s really singing about?
He’s stated in various interviews that he’s only ever really overlaying images but the distance he sings from in some ways gives him a greater range of character to play with. We’re never really hearing Patton sing, but like the ultimate character actor, we’re delivered an unforgettable vignette.
But Tomahawk is in no way a Patton show, the depth of playing exhibited by Denison, Dunn and Stainer is worthy of rapt attention. Dunn’s playing has always been supportive, mercurial and compositional, and in whatever setting he finds himself he brings a savage majesty to the material through his use of off kilter-timing and just plain badassery.
Consider then the possibilities of combining Dunn with Denison and Stainer, consummate masters of timing, drive and tone and you have the pitch black funk of ‘Waratorium’.
Denison is in superlative form here, never once playing a scale that sounds like anything you’ve heard before. Like Marc Ribot he has that ability to make the ordinary seem like it’s been piped from an AM radio aboard a flying saucer and on the album’s closer ‘Typhoon’ he’s given headroom to open the 50s carburettors of his Lynchian dreams to their fullest. It’s mesmerising stuff and counterpoints Patton and Dunns’ schmatlz obsessions with real menace and tang, like a cocktail of amphetamines, petrol and fear sweat.
Oddfellows is a complete album which borders on hard pop perfection and has been released at the ideal point for a new generation of listeners eager to explore intense music.
Unmissable.Out January 28th on Ipecac
Editor, founder, fan.