After years and years as a rock chameleon -- in Fantômas, Mr. Bungle, Faith No More and Tomahawk -- Mike Patton, again, proves himself a master of mic technique on the latter's first album in five years, "Oddfellows." All at once wily, sensual, bonkers and practiced, that voice demands an equally versatile backing and a collaborative spirit to keep Tomahawk fans guessing.
Here, Patton grinds down "Oddfellows'" 13 songs with other members of Fantômas and Mr. Bungle, the Jesus Lizard's axeman Duane Denison and Battles drummer John Stanier. The result is a collection worthy of repeat listens, thought it's not always the most cohesive experience. It's right for a big speaker sound, in its happy accidents and tasteful, complicated back-and-forths between Patton and Denison's mini melody battles. The macho torrent that is "Waratorium" is countered by the perverse slink of "Baby Let's Play ______." The Nick Cave-ison lip curls of "A Thousand Eyes" burrow into an anything-goes genre mash on “Rise Up Dirty Waters,” like a heavy rock variety show fit for warm, red lights.
“Stone Letter” and “South Paw” are Tomahawk at its most conventional and – in no coincidence – the most dated-sounding songs on the set, drilling in the ‘90s hard rock rhythms ad nauseum. And ominous church bells aren't enough to save “I Can Almost See Them,” which goes nowhere.
Still, there's a lot to listen to on "Oddfellows," even when that band churns out only two minutes of punk and prog-opera sounds (see: "Typhoon"). The guitar sounds are particularly challenging and excellent, breeding as much poetry as Patton spits, like everyone's getting squeezed to death starting at the diaphragm in the best possible way.
You can hear all of "Oddfellows" streaming via Spin.