This album is what sex should be like…fucking good.
Who is Tomahawk? It is Duane Denison (the Jesus Lizard, Unsemble, etc), Mike Patton (Faith No More, Fantômas, etc) & John Stanier (Helmet, Battles, etc) and Trevor “field mouse” Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, etc).
If you weren’t familiar with their work, you should definitely take a listen now. Tomahawk took a break to “discover the many truths of the universe.” Oddfellows is the result of the aforementioned break, and they must have dug in deep to find what they delivered with Oddfellows. Oddfellows is releasing worldwide this January 2013 on Ipecac Recordings, but not prior to giving RockRevolt™ the aural pleasure of reviewing it. Oh yes. I was pleased!
One of the key aspects that I love about this album is that it’s not overproduced. It sounds natural and played by real musicians in a real studio. I’m not saying that it has flaws, and if it does, they are perfect in context. What I’m saying is that when you hear the guitar or the drums, you can feel that there are people playing those instruments, and it’s not overwrought with technology. Of course technology is a component, don’t get me wrong. Technology is ALWAYS a component; however, in this case, this album has not used technology to remove the humanity from it, and it leaves it with a raw and organic aspect. This album isn’t just sound waves entering your brain via your ears. This album manifests a physical presence that is palpable.
This album is SO complex that is difficult to sum up in few words. The songs are all small journeys into new places. Each one has a vibe and a soul. There is something for everyone. I will talk about my favorites briefly, because at the end of the day, every song on this album stands out in one way or another and each will reach out and touch a listener in a different way. It would be a disservice for me to gloss-over each one, as they all contribute an eclectic piece to the Oddfellows masterpiece. I’ve listened to this album countless times now, and I discover new things with each listen. Some songs I enjoy more than others, and then sometimes songs fall out of favor, leaving favorite seats open for other songs that had not thought to have liked during the last listen. This is not an album to give one spin. I could say it’s like a fine wine: one you need to sit back and savor. I can’t though, because if it were like a fine wine, I would be a passed out lush – drunk on Oddfellows.
I will talk about some of the current favorites, and how they moved me. The rest I will briefly leave for you to discover for yourselves. There is no sense in giving it all away. Just like with sex, you truly need to leave in an element of surprise.
The album opens with the title track, “Oddfellows” with a thrumming and steady rhythm, and layers of aural intensity. It’s a great opener to the album, as it creates an ominous vibe that wets your appetite and makes you curious for what else is in store. The album moves forward into “Stone Letter,” a song that has something that I would characterize as a “poppy” introduction. The song almost fools you into feeling that it is formulaic of the standard rock song, but then it breaks into a chilling guitar/vocal piece that is in the same vein, and yet tangential to the song, giving it a more robust and three dimensional feel. This solo is dreamily eerie and mesmerizing, making this song a more satiating piece. It’s one of my favorites, and if I were to pick a song for commercial radio play, it would be this one.
We move on to “I.O.U.” which is a short, simple, yet elegant slice of ecstasy. The piano/keyboard provides for an arresting introduction, opening into a seemingly unpretentious combination of rhythms and sounds, but it breaks through with raw force and emotion. The backdrop of vocal layering is mysterious, feeling like muted sirens, filling the song with sensations stirred from within.
“A Thousand Eyes” is another standout delicacy, a song that I’ve kept on repeat as I progress through the day. It’s not a song to listen to once. You will want to sample it again and again. It has simple, yet gorgeous drum and guitar movements, and an occasional “gypsy” call that drapes across in the background. It’s sophisticated piece with a modern edge.
“The Quiet Few” features violins, which create a sense of foreboding and foreshadowing of something dangerous approaching. As it weaves its magic, the bass and rhythm thrust it forward, culminating into a driving hurricane of sounds. This song is vocally intricate and I cannot get enough of it.
“South Paw” brings our journey to a more humorous song. I enjoy listening to him sing about “people rubbing him wrong”, and asking people to put their clothes on. The drums feel like they are in the room with you, while the keyboard and guitars give this song a crunchy and slightly psychedelic occasional feel. The song maneuvers between multiple styles and energies, and it is just fun to listen to.
Those alone should give you a basic feel for what this album has in store, but there is much more. There are some jazz/punk fusion songs like “Rise Up Dirty Waters,” a chameleon of a song that moves between jazz and punk, “Choke Neck,” which has a lilting intro, accented with trilly guitars and vocal percussion flares, blues bones, with a mainstream rock feel; the sexy low and smooth “Baby Let’s Play __,” the punky “Typhoon,” the commercially appealing “Waratorium,” the powerful vocals of “White Hats/Black Hats,” and the warm and subdued “I Can Almost See Them,” all comprise the audial orgasm that which is Oddfellows.
Like I said before, I wish sex were more like this album. Some songs are emotionally charged, and others are more humourous and whimsical. It’s simple where you want it simple. It’s complex when you want it complex. You never find yourself bored between the songs and you just want, crave, and NEED MORE.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, to Tomahawk.
~Alice Roques, Co-Founder and Managing Editor RockRevolt™ Magazine
Go Check them on tour:
February 12 Seattle, WA The Showbox
February 13 Portland, OR Wonder Ballroom
February 15 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
February 16 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
February 17 Santa Ana, CA The Observatory
February 19 Los Angeles, CA The Mayan
Check out their latest video for Oddfellows:
Ipecac Recordings Release: 29 January 2013
Recorded and mixed by Collin Dupuis and Tomahawk at Easy Eye Studios, Nashville, TN