Review Summary: Flawed, yet exceptionally far-reaching return to form.Oddfellows
picks up where Tomahawk’s sophomore album Mit Gas
left off proving that the Native American concept taken on highly polarizing Anonymous
was only a one-off detour. Thankfully so, the supergroup comprised of Mike Patton, axeman Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard), drummer John Stanier (Helmet) and newly acquired bassist Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle) returns to their more straightforward, heavy rock style known from their first two releases. For this reason, the fourth Tomahawk album sounds distinctly familiar with its peculiar blend of quasi-punk rock and enticing melodies that resemble the late work of formidable Faith No More. There's also a tinge of eccentric Fantomas influence thrown in for good measure.
The foursome likes to describe this project as “what we do when we want to rock out and just go nuts and have fun," yet it so happens that Oddfellows
sounds way more imaginative than most alternative rock records released these days. The title track perfectly exemplifies the act's experimental tendencies making great use of angular riffs and clunky bass lines, while “The Quiet Few” builds its eerie atmosphere on long, spastic guitar leads that channel Denison's noise rock background. Most frequently, his cutting-edge guitar play counterpoints Dunn's warmly tuned bass, which results in many rhythmically unconventional solutions that keep listeners constantly guessing in which direction any given song will progress.
Expectedly the instrumentation, no matter how intricate it may be, often plays second fiddle to Patton's multi-faceted vocals which oscillate between clean baritone singing, maniacal crooning and full-on, bombastic choruses. His outstanding vocal range is particularly evident when he goes bonkers in the album's several highlights. Such hard-hitting tracks as "White Hats/Black Hats," "South Paw," and "Warratorium" display an uncanny knack for crafting memorable music that merges slick pop with sludge metal and alt rock aesthetics without drifting into mindless technicality.
The scope of Tomahawk's presentation is even broader though encompassing mellower tracks that strike a balance between tender and ominous. The only considerable downside of the record lies in the fact that this material often feels underwritten or incomplete. “I Can Almost See Them” is devoid of any satisfying conclusion mysteriously building to no climax, whereas “Typhoon” is an otherwise intriguing mesh-up of punk and prog opera that lasts too short to make any impact. It's easy to get an impression that the record hasn't been sufficiently polished up including plenty of great ideas that don't always amount to equally great songs.
Bearing in mind the high profile of musicians involved, Tomahawk are destined to come up with a classic one day. While Oddfellows
isn't really consistent enough to become one in the future, it superbly showcases the outfit's much desirable comeback to their eccentric hybrid of punk and experimental rock. As imperfect as it may be, the album will definitely rank among the most diverse rock releases of the year.