My reviews of albums by tētēma.
2014: Geocidal (8/10)
Mike Patton has long been one of my favourite rock musicians. And I think he has also made some objectively great music; at least six albums he has been involved with I would put on my “core” list of important music a neophyte should listen to. (For your reference, those albums are, in chronological order: Angel Dust, King for a Day…Fool for a Lifetime, Disco Volante, California, The Director’s Cut, and Anonymous.)
But even though it really hasn’t been that long since the last one of those (7 years), it sure has felt like a long time to me. I feel like the few recent projects of his I’ve actually given the full time to have all been minor works. I have certainly thought about the possibility that maybe his time as an important figure in music is over.
But this album really makes me rethink that, despite the fact that he is more of a supporting player on this record. (Please, people, read the credits before you attribute everything to the vocalist.)
I absolutely love this. And the only thing keeping me from giving it a near perfect score is that I am worried I love it in part because I was worried I wouldn’t; because my expectations were low. (Also, not that this album is about lyrics, but I feel like these are some of Patton’s weakest lyrics.)
I really, really want to check out Pateras’ past work. I really like his sensibility and I feel like these two were born to collaborate.
The only other thing keeping me from getting too damn excited about this is that the sound isn’t exactly consistent throughout; both a good thing and bad thing. I remember listening to the first or second track for the first time and just getting bludgeoned and thinking “Yes! Yes!” like this was the logical next step for the guy behind Fantomas. But you certainly don’t get that from so many of the other tracks. (Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.)
And so I am trying to temper my enthusiasm just a little bit by wondering what I will think about this in 10 years. Will I really still think it is unbelievably awesome? I don’t know.
2020: Necroscape (7/10)
I was super excited about Geocidal, mostly because it felt like the first time Patton had made interesting music in some time. So I listened to the record a bunch and gave it a very good review. And then I didn’t listen to it again. I don’t know whether that says I overrated it or just that my listening habits have drastically changed over the last half decade – they really, really have – but, either way, I haven’t found my way back.
tētēma is a full on band now, with a drum and, um, a violinist. I haven’t listed to their debut in so long I don’t know much this has actually changed their sound, but it sure seems like it from memory. It feels like a different band to me. (Again, based upon memory.) At their loudest, they’re now like one of Secret Chiefs 3’s non-metal bands playing music written for Fantomas, without any guitar, if that makes sense to you. At their quietest, I guess they resemble the early version of this group.
It’s been so long that it’s hard to compare this album to the last one, but I think this more disjointed than the previous one, it feels more schizophrenic. The tendency with Patton – and, to a lesser extent, with every charismatic front-man – is to attribute these changes to him, just as people did with Faith No More, Tomahawk, etc. But, much like with Tomahawk’s music, that’s not how this works. The music is originally made by Pateras and then Patton and the other musicians add their parts. In this case, Pateras is responsible for the final mix. It just seems like Pateras’ particular brand of musical schizophrenia is well suited to this other musical schizophrenic.
I like musical schizophrenia when it’s well executed, as it is here, and so I like this. But I can’t help but feel that their earlier album felt more unique to this group, and felt more like a cohesive statement than this does. Of course, it’s been years since I listened to that record, and so I’m based this on faint memories. But I can’t shake the feeling and the only way I would actually dispel it would be to listen to Geocidal and I just don’t have time right now.
Very much for Patton fanatics, I think. And, presumably, for fans of Pateras. But still something I thoroughly enjoy and I’m glad to see that Patton is still making interesting music when he’s not singing Romantic ballads or remaking ’80s demos.