Anyone who knows me, reads the site, or listens to my voice through their ears via speakers, or my mouth, will know that I am massive fan of Mike Patton, and his ever-growing band of merry men.I really got into his music when I first heard Faith No More’s ‘Angel Dust’ back in 1993. Getting a tape copy from my friend Ben, and listening to it to death. Gone was the tedious nasel whinging of ‘The Real Thing’, replaced by a hefty baratone roar, epic squealing, hick rambling, and pleasant loungey strains. The fact that this, and more-so the follow up, came out on a mainstream label stunned me slightly.
Next came Mr Bungle (for me), and Disco Volante: an album that tested my boundaries of what I considered ‘music’ to it’s very limits, and eventually breaking them, setting a new standard, rewiring my head forever. It was a cool time maaaan.
Since then, Mr Patton has explored so many points of the sonic spectrum, trying to list them, and my reactions to them would be – frankly – tedious for you. Needless to say, I genuinely believe I have a.) every officially released recording of Patton on CD and Vinyl (even this obscure relic), and b.) about 40GB of live recordings….I guess what I’m doing here, is spreading my peacock feathers. Those feathers are made of album covers, letting you know that I ‘know my Patton’, and I’m ready to fight beak to beak, to the death to prove it! COME AT ME BRO!
Anyway, with my alpha-male status now established, let’s actually talk about the album.
When I first heard ‘Oddfellows’, I hated it. It sounded like Patton had phoned in the vocals, and spent about 5 minutes with a notepad putting the lyrics together. The music on the other-hand, was great. Classic Dennison guitars, militarily perfect drums, and a welcome addition of Trevor (Mr Bungle/Fantomas/John Zorn) Dunn to the fold. It will surprise you, then, to discover that I now love this album. It’s a ‘grower’, and when it hits you, you can’t stop listening to it.
Opening track ‘Oddfellows’, is text-book Tomahawk. Harking back in tone a little to ‘Mit Gass’ opener ‘Bird Song’. Patton bellows the chorus, over crashing Dennison riffs that slice in a way only he can. It’s great stuff, and sets my expectations to fun! ‘Stone Letter’ follows, a fairly bog standard affair, but catchy enough with some more great bellowing again in the chorus from Patton….Patton bellows now it would seem.
It’s the third song, ‘IOU’, that initially threw me. The lyrics ‘I owe you a love song, for everything I’ve done wrong’, just don’t sound right coming from Patton’s mouth, on a Tomahawk record. On my first listen I sat there, waiting for the inevitable screeching, and mad electronics to kick in…but they never did. Patton’s vocal style seemed too normal, and even (dare I say it) mainstream. This had to be a glitch in the system right?
Phew, ‘White Hats/Black Hats’, kicks in with nice stabbing Dennison guitars, and that pleasing, almost rapped style of vocal we know and love from Patton, and then breaks into some great lyrics: ‘I’ll shoot you off the range, sell your daddy’s grange’, great stuff. Follower, ‘A thousand eyes’, again sees Patton dipping back into mainstream mode again, with lazily-sung vocals, over picked ‘creepy’ riffs. The chorus is pleasant enough though.
‘Rise up dirty waters’ is probably my favourite of the album. A great jazzy Dunn bassline, with Patton and Dennison switching from fantastic chamber sounds, to a full-on rock a billy attacks, and back again. Reminiscent of Mr Bungle in some ways, this is great stuff. ‘I can almost see them’ is Patton and co in nick Cave and the Bad Seeds mode, and it works really well. Patton drones “we all need some rope every now and then”, over pleasantly plucked bass bass and shattering guitar stabs. ‘The Quiet Few’ is classic Tomahawk, but kind of cut down to it’s bare bones, lacking the electronics, and packed in vocals that we’re used to.
‘South Paw’ is where things really get conflicted for me. The song starts out brilliantly, with almost hardcore drums, wailing guitars, suddenly spasming into a brilliant interplay between Patton delicately whisper-singing over lushly reverbed guitars. The problem in this song, is the chorus. “You, rub me so wrong…keep you clothes on”, it just feels like Patton isn’t trying at all. Luckily ‘Choke Neck’ saves the day, with a great sleazy guitar, and bar band vocals. Sadly ‘Waratorium’ just feels like a lazy B-side, and is pretty much the only ‘filler’ on the whole record. The chorus is interesting at points, but the whole thing just feels like it was written in a few minutes, and probably should have been left on the cutting room floor.
‘Baby let’s play’ has some tones of exotica, albeit exotica minus the masses of instruments, and another chambery approach, which is really great. Tomahawk should make a chamber-music record…just saying. Not disimilar to Waratorium, album closer ‘Typhoon’ just feels like a lazy mainstream rock song. My girlfriend walked into my office during my first play-through, and asked me why I was listening to Foo FIghters…not good.
So overall, it’s not that Oddfellows is a bad album, not at all, it’s just minimal. It’s Tomahawk doing the rock record, and dialling down the crazy ‘packed full of information’ Patton that we’re used to. Gone are the electronics punctuating effects-heavy vocals, in their place, a more simplistic, traditional, approach.
I think that my initial disappointment with this record was that I was expecting it to sound like ‘Tomahawk’, or ‘Mit Gas’, or other Patton records from that early 00’s ‘golden-age’ when we got about a hundred records a year from the man. Instead it sounds more like a Faith No More record, which is a good thing. This isn’t the best outing for the band, but it’s solid enough, and I can’t wait to see how it translates live.