Ever since introducing himself to the world with Faith No More’s The Real Thing in 1989, Mike Patton has been defined by near-superhuman levels of vocal dexterity and a creative restlessness that borders on ADHD, trying everything from avant-garde composition to Italian opera to the surf rock-death metal hybrids of Mr. Bungle. He might have finally met his vocal match in TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, a singer who’s been shaping art-rock and soul music into fascinating new forms for more than a decade. The debut album from Nevermen – a new group formed by Patton, Adebimpe and underground hip-hop hero Adam “Doseone” Drucker (best known for his work with Anticon/cLOUDDEAD) – finds the three artists pushing the capabilities of their voices to the breaking point, and their cohorts to keep up.
Some hints of TV On The Radio’s glamorous grime and cLOUDHEAD’s murky thump are present, but Nevermen seem intent on not retreading past accomplishments. With their intricately stitched ping-pong vocals, tennis-ball-in-a-washing-machine beats and acid-house keyboard blasts, the group often resembles a less whimsical Animal Collective, especially on the industrial doo-wop of “Treat Em Right” and the cyclone of shredded melodies of “At Your Services.” Certain stretches of the album, such as “Hate On,” could have benefitted from one or two less layers of sonic abstraction and a bit more breathing room. But the interlocking harmonies, call-and-response lead turns and unexpected acoustic riffs of “Mr Mistake” show that these weirdos can do pop on their own terms whenever they want to.