In the often bloated and hype-filled league of supergroups, Tomahawk stand apart. There seems to be very little in the way of expectation, either from within the band or out. Combine this with frontman Mike Patton’s near continuous left-field release schedule means they are free to release their new record, Oddfellows, without the kind of pressure that surrounded the likes of Audioslave or Velvet Revolver.
It’s been almost five years since 2007’s psychedelic, Native American-themed Anonymous; a left-field, love-it–or-loathe-it experiment that didn’t quite work. This time round the band, made up of The Jesus Lizard’s Duane Denison, Helmet’s John Stanier and Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle, have opted for a straight up classy rock album.
Despite the torrid and child-like artwork, Oddfellows is a raw and intelligent record. None of the songs clock in at over four minutes, but each has plenty to give. From the raucous off-kilter riffs and crooning of the title track through to the quietly subdued ‘IOU’, the record is full of unpredictable twists and turns.
Though it’s an attempt to be a straight up hard rock record, Patton & CO. have created something that is far more. Lead single ‘Stone Letter’ is a catchy but catchy rock/pop number, while South Paw’s up-tempo refrain “Please, keep your clothes on” is heavy and irresistible at the same time. Even through the catchy numbers, the album as a whole retains a dark quality, akin to the kind of moody atmosphere that surrounds Nick Cave’s brooding records.
Ideas spill from every corner, from the jazz-into-punk of ‘Rise Up Dirty Waters’ to the Melvin’s-esque grunge of ‘The Quiet Few’, but despite the variety on offer it remains very cohesive and never disjointed. The wide range of styles is quite refreshing compared to many bands who simply repackage the same song over and over.
Oddfellows is great. Heavy, catchy, dark and addictive; occasionally radio friendly- more occasionally not, and just another quality album to add to the Patton cannon. The various twists, turns and nuances mean repeated listens are required to fully digest and appreciate what’s on offer. But from the first listen and every subsequent spin, the obvious thing is that this rocks hard.
By Dan Swinhoe