Well well, this is a very welcome musical grenade tossed into my isolation bunker! The return of Tomahawk is something to be grateful for. I mean, anything from Mike Patton is going to be crazy, dangerous and entertaining, right? Whist I am usually happiest cosying up to some meandering prog epic ramblings, it’s refreshing to get back to why I got into music in the first place, which was the glorious sound of hard rock noise with attitude by the bucket load.
Tomahawk are not as avant-garde as Mr Bungle, but they are sure on the edgy side of hard rock, and for the most part, not easy listening, but this, their fifth album and first since 2013, is actually quite approachable. That doesn’t mean it’s not a riotous din at times, with Patton venting his spleen at regular intervals, but that’s all part of the fun. It seems that the trio of Duane Denison (guitar), John Stanier (drums) and Trevor Dunn (bass) got together some time before the pandemic and recorded the basic tracks, waiting for Patton to become available to lay down the vocals. The lockdown provided the window of opportunity for this to finally happen, the result being Tonic Immobility, and it’s a rabid hound of an album. Despite the manner of its gestation, Patton is centre stage and his inimitable vocal delivery screams for your full attention throughout.
Whilst hard furious rock is the order of the day, there are plenty of lighter moods bringing some relief from the barrage of angst, with moody atmospherics, spaghetti western flourishes and ska rhythms all thrown into the mix to keep you on your toes. Opener SHHH! alternates between whispered vocals with gently plucked guitar and full-throttle riffage with blood vessel threatening screaming. With hardly a pause for breath, Valentine Shine moves up another gear, and Mr Patton is angry again, but in a gloriously uninhibited head-shaking way. Denison spews forth some manic guitar as we dash towards the song’s climax. This is fast, furious and thoroughly enjoyable stuff, and makes me feel considerably younger.
After another frantic ear-bashing with the excellent Predators and Scavengers, we get a breather. Doomsday Fatigue has a laid-back western desert feel, and ominous dark cloud lyrics:
We labor alone today.
What’s reaching out to you mama?
A closed fist or an open hand?”
The music certainly has a wide-screen cinematic quality, as we reach the chorus:
We all jerk off to the same thing. It’s doomsday fatigue.”
The American white collar worker mindset is examined in Business Casual, and is one of the stand out cuts. Patton’s lyrics are again memorable:
Cat eyes are living in trees, low carbs and gluten free.
Bad cholesterol, we dress in business casual.”
The band are tight and hard-hitting, Stanier punishing his drum kit with precision and Dunn relentless on bass. Denison is happy whether he’s revving through the gears or adding more subtle effects, and proves himself a great all-rounder and pivotal to Tomahawk’s untamed sound. There are many more highlights, but there’s really not a bad track on the album. Sidewinder looks at consumerism from an interesting angle as Patton claims: “I consume everything the world shoves in my face, I drink, I eat, I live it, and it’s not my choice”.
The album hurtles along like a roller coaster, and all too soon the final song approaches with Patton providing some falsetto lines interspersed with barking, whoops and howls on Dog Eat Dog, an indictment on the way we treat each other in the modern world. He sounds like David Lee Roth at times, it’s hilarious. Patton signs off with “We are Tomahawk and we approve this message”. All I can say after that is that I approve of Tonic Immobility, 100%!
01. SHHH! (3:14)
02. Valentine Shine (3:01)
03. Predators and Scavengers (2:58)
04. Doomsday Fatigue (3:30)
05. Business Casual (3:30)
06. Tattoo Zero (3:19)
07. Fatback (3:14)
08. Howlie (4:08)
09. Eureka (2:03)
10. Sidewinder (3:56)
11. Recoil (3:28)
12. Dog Eat Dog (3:05)
Total Time – 39:26
Duane Denison – Guitar
Mike Patton – Vocals
John Stanier – Drums
Trevor ‘Field Mouse’ Dunn – Bass
Record Label: Ipecac Recordings
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 26th March 2021
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