Review Summary: The title "Oddfellows" ends up being incredibly apt, although perhaps not in the context intended by the band.
3 of 4 thought this review was well written
On May 12th, 2012, with the release of the "Oddfellows" album teaser snippet, things were looking good for Tomahawk fans. Expectations grew as the band became even more deserving of the ironic title of "Super-Group" by recruiting Trevor Dunn (Fantomas, Mr. Bungle) in the absence of former bassist Kevin Rutmanis. Mike Patton released a promisary statement to Rolling Stone magazine and the stage seemed to be set. Yet even with these positive indications band's 4th full length release severely underwhelms, somehow managing to simultaneously be the band's most diverse, yet ill-conceived batch of songs to date.
The band's performances are decent, but safe with the exception of Duane Denison's guitar work, which is spectacular as always. His performance, however is undercut by the lack of guitar presence in the mix, and being the primary songwriter, this leaves the rest of the band dead in the water. This could have been forgivable if not for the formidable Trevor Dunn being a complete no-show. With the exception of the track "Rise Up Dirty Waters", where his bass line is shadowed by a creepy circus organ. Other than some friendly tones and tasty backing vocals, his influence is nowhere to be found, and with no direction from the bass, drummer John Stanier is left to grasp at straws. This puts the focus squarely on Patton's ambient effects and vocal performance. Normally this would be no cause for alarm, as one would be hard pressed to find a more capable vocalist, but both the lyrics and originality of his performance are seriously lacking this time around. For example, the song "I.O.U." sounds more like b-side out takes from Peeping Tom's "Your Neighbourhood Spaceman" than an actual song.
The lyrics especially, seem to have significantly less craft and are almost groan worthy in places. Previously boasting brooding psychopathic soliloquies and penetratingly perverse sub-conscious imagery, the words are now vague, flaccid reflections on past relationships and non-sense. Look no further than the chorus of the lead single, "Stone Letter", "I throw it, stone letter, thinking I could know you better, 'cause I don't know you, know you anymore". If this were the band's first album, it might not be so discomforting, but these pale in comparison to lyrics found on their eponymous debut, "Treading water in an ocean of champagne, you pull a spark plug when you see a drop of blood, and how many joyrides will it take, the sombre spasms harbouring, those pulsing neon hangovers, hang me". The lack of focus may also be a reflection of the band deciding to enlist the services of producer Collin Dupuis, who has done work with radio darlings, The Black Keys. There have also been reports that one of Mike's family members passed away during pre-production for this album, and that the band's rehearsal time was cut as a result.
There are some winning moments to be found, but to anyone who is a fan of Patton's catalogue, this album comes as a definite disappointment since Tomahawk has, until this point, represented a wonderfully fresh arena for the vocalist to expound his many vocal talents without trespassing into the territory of his other projects. As one might expect there is definite chemistry to be found at time in this set of songs, but counting Dunn amongst the fold seems to have had the effect of moderating the Tomahawk sound, for fear of becoming parody of Fantomas and Mr. Bungle, rather than adding new steam to the creative impetus of the band. Sadly "Oddfellows" is not a return to form so much as a relegation to the ranks of the irrelevant.
Definitely enjoyed this more than you, but I agree with quite a few of the criticisms. Main sticking point for me is the lyric quality, generally speaking Patton's lyrics, while not profound are ambiguous enough that you can read what you like from them, here they do feel a bit too pedantic at times.
I wonder if the shortcoming we all detect is that they bought into their idea of making a club rock album was taken too far, and they dumbed themselves down too much in making the album.
I also feel like the album takes a bit to recover from Stone Letter, which even now leaves a bad taste in my mouth after successive listens. Odd Fellows opens up the album well, but Stone Letter brings it down for me.
I think you sum up Patton's lyricism perfectly Jruined.
I'd hate to suggest that they were shooting for pop appeal, but even if they were, it seems like a pretty haphazard way to go about it. This just seems like a misfire from a band that used to be sure-fire.
Well, I remember in an interview with Denison, Patton, and Stanier that they were shooting for grubby, drugs, booze, and women rock.
I think the album does give us that, but none of them are really that type of musician, and have never played that type of music (even early FNM Patton isn't that).
Bad Brains was cited as an influence on all and that's what they wanted to go for, but I think they allowed the idea to swallow their better judgement and never hit that ideal (bad brains does rock the shit out of your face, at least their early stuff).
Then again maybe they just wanted to relax for five seconds and put out something with no strings attached. I'm also looking at what this was selling for. I was surprised at the price I paid. I've been getting used to 18-20 dollar vinyl and this came in at 15 with shipping.