ARTIST: NEVERMEN + ALBUM: SELF-TITLED + LABEL: IPECAC RECORDINGS + RELEASED: JAN 29, 2016
Mike Patton’s post-Faith No More career has been characterized by a gluttony of collaborations with other musicians and artists. Frequently, the best of these collaborations are one-off releases that are never followed-up. For example, the 2001 collaboration with Dan the Automator and Jennifer Charles, Lovage: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By; or Peeping Tom, a 2006 “pop” album he did with everyone under the sun: Norah Jones, Bebel Gilberto, Massive Attack, Kool Keith, Dub Trio and others. Some of his collaborations, like Fantomas (with Buzz Osborne of the Melvins and Dave Lombardo, formerly of Slayer) and Tomahawk (with Duane Denison of The Jesus Lizard and others) have released and toured a handful of albums each. In his spare time, Patton has also done soundtracks, some work with Handsome Boy Modeling School, an album in Italian, and a half-dozen albums with avant-garde composer/multi-instrumentalist John Zorn. Which begs the question: Is this a one-off side-project with Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio and Adam “Doseone” Drucker? Or is this the beginning of a long-term collaboration?
Pitched as a leaderless-supergroup, Nevermen actually feels like a true collaboration in terms of the overall product. The individual aesthetic of each artist is in full effect, but neither dominating or dictating the direction or sound of the songs. Further, It would’ve been easy for each of these vocalists to have their own individual showcase tracks; however, (without the benefit of specific liner notes) they all sing on every song here. The trio engage in rap-ish vocal interplays and plenty of true singing and harmonizing. The vocals are blended and mixed just like any other instrument or sound. By that I mean, the vocals are very much a central part of the music, but within the mix they seem to be integrated with the other sounds rather than singing over a backing track type mix where the vocals are at a higher volume than everything else. The music itself sounds not unlike Patton’s Peeping Tom meets TV on the Radio by way of…lets say, DJ Shadow with a dash of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s cut-up technique. The album is dense, multi-layered, and full of surprises. Songs start in one direction and abruptly change gears and head down a completely different and usually unexpected path.
My first impression is that it’s a little unfortunate this wasn’t released for summer. The overall vibe of the album is upbeat, sometimes uplifting. The track “Wrong Animal Wright Trap” is a perfect example. “Tough Towns” is a post-trip-hop number that features Patton and Adebimpe beautifully blending harmonies. “Mr. Mistake,” the first single of the album, is a catchy number with a hip-hop groove. Again, this song screams summer-single to me. However, maybe it’s the perfect thing to get your ass dancing in the dead of winter. “Shellshot” follows suit and keeps the party going before seguing into the slinky swagger of “At Your Service.”
For my ears, there’s some filler on this album. Specifically, track five “Hate On” and track 10, “Fame II: The Reckoning.” “Hate On” is slow and boring and features the trio repeating “Haaaaate, Hate On” over and over again before Patton adds a cool line near the last minute of the track. “Fame II” is a haunting track with a cinematic feel that after 4 minutes of build up finally turns into something likeable before it ends. These tracks seem like the by-products of the recording sessions rather than outright “songs.” Those with more avant-garde leanings may feel otherwise. They are the obvious cool-down tracks of Side-A and Side-B, respectively. Given the mult-layered nature of the album, I can see how these songs could grow on me with repeated listens.
Nevermen’s debut self-titled album is perfect for headphones, dance floors, and dinner parties. Adjust the volume level accordingly. If you’re a fan of Mike Patton, TV on the Radio, or Doseone, I’m confident you’re going to enjoy this album. The stand-out tracks, “Mr. Mistake” and “Tough Towns,” are instant crowd-pleasers. But, this is very much an art album. If you like your music like your movies, straightforward and without the need of further inspection, then you probably don’t want this album. But, if you have more patience and enjoy digging through the layers, there’s a lot here that will reward you. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that there’s more Nevermen in our future.
– J. Kevin Lynch