Tomahawk – [Album]

Monday, 21 January 2013

It might not be the single easiest thing to definitively contend, but Mike Patton has remained one of the best, most consistently interesting and most consistently creative musicians to escape the wave of crotch-grabbing California bands that appeared in the Eighties. Granted, he's had to prove it without a whole lot of help (Faith No More fell apart in 1998) but he has pulled it off; whether playing with The Melvins, Dillinger Escape Plan, Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk or any of the other myriad projects to which he's leant his talent, each has become a “Mike Patton project” for the duration of the album on which he's appearing; even if he's only on one song, the whole record seems to reshape itself to the singer's artistic vision more than anyone else's.

So what was on Mike Patton's mind this time when he when he decided to make another album with Tomahawk? Judging by the sounds splattered all over the thirteen tracks which comprise ''Oddfellows'', the plan was clearly to make an epic hard rock opera on the vicissitudes of heartbreak which includes every aspect of Patton's work that he has ever been praised for in his 29-year career, from his phenomenal vocal range to his daring and dramatic dalliances with different compositional styles. The composite image that such ambition yields on ''Oddfellows'' is just awesome and powerful enough to knock listeners clean off their feet when they first hear it.

Even if they already read the above pre-amble and have an idea of what to expect, will still get some chills as the title track from “Oddfellows” opens the record with some ominous sounding drums and a side-winding guitar lick supplied by Tomahawk mainstay Duane Denison. That squirrelly guitar line and those great big drums are dark and disconcerting, and they really set the stage for what listeners will be able to expect of “Oddfellows”, but when Mike Patton slinks his way in – all grotesque, guttural croak and bluster boiling under – that's when listeners who know will begin to smile. That's when they'll know that “Oddfellows” is going to be a maliciously good time.

After the album's title track sets the stage, the hard feelings keep flowing out of the dozen tracks which follow it; but the tone keeps changing every step of the way; it shifts between different emotional states with almost reckless abandon the tonal shifts between tracks actually end up providing a series of excellent foils for the others. After “Oddfellows” gets started with a dark, forlorn and at least a little angry snarl, for example, an incredibly spry and undeniably punk-sounding guitar leads “Stone Letter To Follow it before shifting again into even darker and more malicious climes in “I.O.U.” (where the lead-off lyric is “I owe you a love song/ For everything I've done wrong” and the choral rejoinder is “I don't know you – know you anymore”). That shift feels almost manic in its emotional disparity, and listeners will find themselves listening just that much more closely to see if they can pick out great a difference there is in emotional extremes from track to track.

The two emotional poles of manic misery and bleak despair end up being the most noticeable as “Oddfellows” plays through, but they end up end up also offering some pretty stellar high points in this run-time too. Patton pantomimes a fantastic psychotic break for the horribly beautiful “White Hats/Black Hats” before diving almost smoothly into some smooth jazz changes and surfacing in a drugged, almost deranged state for “The Quiet Few.” As wildly divergent as those moods are, the subject they revolve around is always that miserable love interest who spurned Patton and, as soon as  realize that, listeners will begin to marvel at how completely Patton gives himself over to the different emotional states he inhabits for these songs, and how easily he shifts between them. Some listeners will recognize those changes as the shifts they've experienced in the aftermath of a really bad break-up, but that Mike Patton is able to present them with such a seemingly complete emotional shift is incredible; it's cathartic, but also totally believable – it doesn't just feel put on at all. That it feels so genuine is the hook that will have listeners coming back to visit “Oddfellows” again and again; they know these feelings because they've felt them before, and that Mike Patton presents them so vividly is remarkable to experience. They say misery loves company? On “Oddfellows”, listeners are invited to find out and join Mike Patton in his.



will be released on January 29, 2013 via Ipecac Recordings. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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