Tomahawk – Oddfellows (2013)
Oddfellows they certainly are!
Tomahawk is one of a multitude of Mike Patton-fronted projects; and anything with his name attached is almost certain to get my ears twitching. His vast range of genre and styles is mind-blowing, from crooning 60s Italian pop music (Mondo Cane) to extreme Avant-garde (John Zorn’s The Stone project), and most places in between, makes him one of the most interesting popular musicians around.
Tomahawk, however, is Patton-fronted but not completely Patton-led. This is former Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison’s baby; and their overall sound is a more straightforward rock sound.
Completing the lineup is John Stanier (Battles, Helmet) on drums and Trevor Dunn (Mr Bungle, Fantomas, Melvins Lite), replacing Kevin Rutmanis on bass.
Because Tomahawk are a less-experimental band in the players’ respective oeuvres, they are closer to Faith No More and Helmet than other more wacky bands, but they are not some FNM- or Helmet-lite. Tomahawk utilise a great deal of experimentation under the surface; they draw on and basically re-interpret Americana in my mind. Seedy, dangerous cowboy tunes abound in their back catalogue; Native American music infiltrates the sound on their last album, Anonymous (2007), and overall, theirs is a scary world, where loneliness on the plains, on the road, or in the shadows, with guilty resentment and lust gives way to paranoia and psychosis. It is a dark American underbelly.
The opener, title track Oddfellows feels like it could be a Melvins track, driving bassline, sure and steady rhythm. Stone Letter is a typical Tomahawk track, palm-muted dancing guitars into a catchy chorus melody, with hints of Faith No More at the end, just to thrust the legacy onto you. White Hats/Black Hats encroaches on the alternative metal tag that is often applied to Tomahawk. The scope of the album is broad: Rise Up Dirty Waters is an interesting excursion, disparate bassline and haunting vocal melody; Jazzy and reminiscent of Mr Bungle at times, while South Paw is balls to the wall rock, and Choke Neck just feels dangerous, like a walk on top of a cliff with someone you don’t quite trust.
Really, this takes a number of listens to really get a hold of, but it is great and keeps the interest high at all times!
Overall, the nearest comparison for the scope and depth of Oddfellows would be Faith No More’s last album, Album of the Year (1997); this might be the least boundary-challenging album by Tomahawk, but that hardly holds up as a criticism for such a good album. My only criticism would be that the sounds almost seem to finish too soon, or maybe that is because I don’t want to stop listening to them!
Favourite tracks: Rise Up Dirty Waters, Waratorium, Stone Letter
Spotify link: Tomahawk – Oddfellows