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Tomahawk - Oddfellows (Album Review)

Friday, 25 January 2013 Written by Ben Bland
Tomahawk - Oddfellows (Album Review)

Thereís no point in trying, and inevitably failing, to sum up Tomahawk. Letís just call them a supergroup, and not one of those supergroups that fall into the category just because one of their members is an ex-member of Whitesnake or something. Tomahawk are Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle), Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard), Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, John Zorn) and John Stanier (Helmet, Battles). All legends in their own right those guys, whether their names leap off the screen to you or not. Dunn is a new member to the fold, replacing Kevin Rutmanis (Cows, Melvins) on bass, but otherwise this is the same ensemble cast that made three delightfully intriguing records in the last decade. Never entirely one thing or the other, Tomahawk are perhaps best categorised as a plain old Ďrockí band, but then such determination to categorise can be misleading.

ImageThe thing is, despite largely conforming to many Ďtraditionalí rock trappings, Tomahawk have always been something more than that. On 2007ís 'Anonymous' they made it more obvious by doing a cover album... of traditional Native American songs but even before that Tomahawkís music reflected their personality to the extent that they were always more than just a Ďrockí band. 'Oddfellows' is no different. On the surface this is the sort of groovy alt-rock that Queens of the Stone Age are supposed to be best at. Really, however, Tomahawk are much, much weirder than that. The likes of 'IOU' and 'Baby, Letís Play ____' have darker undercurrents that belie their apparently fairly straightforward nature. Even the albumís single, 'Stone Letter' has a certain manic nature to it that makes it somewhat uneasy, if delightful, listening.

Many will be quick to lavish praise on Patton for giving Tomahawk this strange atmospheric quality but, although his vocals and lyrics are brilliant, it is actually Duane Denison most responsible for driving the band forward in this regard. His guitar playing switches from its most abrasive to its most hypnotic, and back again via all the points in between, in such a subtle fashion that it gives the listener a rather schizophrenic impression. 'Oddfellows' careers through thirteen songs in forty-one minutes. All of them have a hook of some description but this is a record that proves perfectly that itís often the way you present your hooks, rather than the hooks themselves, that matters. Here Tomahawk are at times claustrophobic, and at times expansive, but they are always catchy and they always rock.

Fans will be quick to parallel 'Oddfellows' with their self-titled 2001 debut, which had the same lack of open experimentation in favour of more subtle tricks of the trade. 'Oddfellows' could well better that effort, however. Itís a delightful display of songwriting that is both immediate and wacky without being at any points shallow and verbose. It works not just as the top draw rock album that it is but also as a marker of how you can sound interesting without necessarily tearing up the rule book. Itís the way that Tomahawk play that makes 'Oddfellows' great. In fact, it makes it bloody essential.

'Oddfellows' is out on Monday 28th January via Ipeac.

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