Tomahawk ROAWR!! Tomahawk!! "Funky-Assed Acid Country Rock"!! Shafty chops you up good and eats you with Indian fangs unless you crawl into wigwam with squaw you callem girlfriend, and smokem teh peace pipe while listen to scalping good music!
Tomahawk is the latest musical project by former Faith No More frontman Mike Patton, who also performs with Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Lovage and several other smaller outfits. Knowing that Patton's stuff varies widely from the "hard rock" (ack, labels that REFUSE TO FIT!, just like my old Supermayunn Halloween costume) of Faith No More, to the silly and sublime (Mr. Bungle), to the experimental production of random noises assembled with no particular rhyme nor reason (Fantomas), I knew not what to expect when I picked up Tomahawk. But Shafty is Big Chief Laughs-at-Other-Scaredy-Indians-While- Proclaiming-his-Braveness, and bought teh album anyways!
Tomahawk happens to be somewhat of a supergroup, with Patton being joined by guitarrist Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard), bassist Kevin Rutmanis (Cows, Melvins), and drummer John Stanier (Helmet!). Technically, the project was Denison's idea, but it's impossible for Patton to be involved with something without leaving his indelible mark, so Tomahawk's focus clearly is on Patton and his voice/noise-producing throat thingy. He goes from whispering to singing to twanging to screaming to speaking, and back again, during the entire album, and you really get the sense that the rest of the band is simply trying to keep up with his mercurial nuttiness. It's like they can't predict what he'll do next. While most bands write the music and then the lyrics, Tomahawk sounds as though Patton's parts were written and recorded first. Maybe it's a mixing thing. Then again, maybe it was supposed to be like this. Who knows?
You may not like his stuff. I currently use Fantomas' debut album to prop up one corner of my entertainment center. (Megadeth's "Youthanasia" has another corner.) But he pushes the musical envelope with every release. Tomahawk's no different. What is Tomahawk like? It's like... BAKING! Yeah, that's the ticket! Follow this recipe for tasty scalping Tomahawk:
Yeah, it's kind of like that.
Is Tomahawk bad? No, it's actually quite good. But don't expect it to look or sound like anything you're familiar with. It doesn't sound like Faith No More, Mr. Bungle OR Fantomas, and don't buy it expecting it to. If you wanted it to sound like Faith No More, you should have bought a Faith No More album. If you wanted it to sound like Mr. Bungle, you should have bought a Bungle album. If you wanted it to sound like Fantomas, you should have eaten some pie instead. Hah, I threw in that pie stuff to see if you were paying attention.
It's not rock, it's not country, what is it? ("It's it," haha). The magazine Revolver called Tomahawk a "hard rock" band. Then again, Revolver also thinks that Incubus constitutes unsucky metal. Wrong on both accounts. Truth be told, Tomahawk is an unlabellable band. They proclaim loudly, "Tryem to categorize usses, Mr. Sam Goody, and we makem you even look sillier than red-faced Pluh.com editar who misses news post and gets taunted next day!"
Back to baking analogy: Your first attempt to bake Tomahawk failed because you baked it too long at the wrong temperature. For really good Tomahawk eating, you have to cook it at 400 degrees for only 30 seconds, then at 250 degrees for a minute and a half, then back to 400 degrees for 12.5 seconds, then down to 125 for 3.14159 seconds. (Mmmmm, pi.) And you have to kind of repeat that process for the entire length of the album, because the volume and tempo jump around wildly like Homer in his underwear, brandishing the rake over his head, yelling like a tribal Indian at Bart who has stolen his coin jar. Exactly like that, and no other analogy will work.
Many albums attempt to evoke some sort of emotional response in the listener. If there's an emotion that Patton et al. are attempting to emote, it's despair. Not as in a girl's "I need a date for the prom so badly that I'll even go with Nerdlinger" desperation but, rather, "I'm an escaped convict in the middle of the desert at night and I'd do anything to ensure my escape, even kill you and wear your skin as a jacket" Lost Highways-like desperation. Tomahawk's music doesn't KILL TEH WARLD. It just makes you think it's going to. Maybe. There's an ominous tone that underlies every song on this album, but it's purposefully inconsistent just to mess with your head. The album's second track, "101 North," includes an occasionally out-of-rhythm drum beat that is so unexpected that it leaves you disjointed. The song's tone? "Hey there, hitchhiker, come along with me and we'll have a grand old time on the highway!" The song's eerie undercurrent, though, makes you want to yell, "THIS IS NO HAPPY JOYRIDE!! NO DON'T PICK UP TAHT HITCHHIKER, HE WILL KILLS YOU!"
"God Hates a Coward" presents the second part of the story: Hitchhiker, staring at motorist with knowing smile, thinking, "Maybe you'll live through the night. Then again, maybe I'll be pouring your cold blood on my Frosted Flakes tomorrow morning." Sweet dreams. The song continues to build tension, but never quite explodes to the "I WILL KILLS YOU WIT TEH DULL EDGE OF MY TOMAHAWK!" that you expect. Which is even better than if it had. It's eerieness value is several pluhs. You then go from the quiet murderous rage of "God Hates a Cowboy" to the solitude of "Pop1," which makes you relax, peacefully, trees, chirping birds, gentle sunlight, smiley happy flowers and puppy dogs and then... Patton explodes, screaming "THIS BEAT SHOULD WIN ME A GRAMMY!THIS BEAT SHOULD WIN ME A GRAMMY! THIS BEAT SHOULD WIN ME A GRAMMY! THIS BEAT SHOULD WIN ME A GRAMMY!" Haha, subtle humor, like Faith No More titling their last album "Album of the Year." Ha ha!
The album comes in a plain embossed cardboard CD pack thing. No pictures of the band. No lyrics. Instead? Drawings of guy getting hacked up by axe in woods. Perfectly fits the mood of this band.
Should Tomahawk's beat win them a Grammy? No, Grammies are reserved for more accomplished artists like Milli Vanilli and the Be Sharps. (*cough sarcasm intended*) They wouldn't want one, though, anyway. It would probably just end up propping up somebody's entertainment center. So what IS Tomahawk? Umm, part rock, part country, part ______, with special sauce and the Colonel's secret blend of original herbs and spices. Cook it right this time, and you'll get Tomahawk: "Funky-assed Acid Country Rock."
|Sound/Production||Terrific sound quality and production. If it's Denison's band, though, why was the album mixed to focus on Patton?||4.5|
|Presentation||Less is more.||4.5|
|Originality||Try to find something even remotely resembling Tomahawk. Go ahead, try, I dare you. I double-dog dare you!||5|
|Songwriting||Duane Denison is one bad songwriting mutha'. And when kids these days say days say "Bad," they mean good. And to "shake your booty" means to wiggle one's butt. Permit me to demonstrate.||4.5|
|Deathy/Heavyness||Unconventionally death-dealing, but death-dealing nonetheless!||4|
|Final Verdict: 4.5|