Tomahawk Tomahawk Review
Subgenres(s): Experimental Rock
Length: 42 minutes
Label(s): Ipecac Recordings
02. 101 North
03. Point and Click
04. God Hates a Coward
05. Pop 1
06. Sweet Smell of Success
07. Sir Yes Sir
09. Cul de Sac
Tomahawk Tomahawk Review
Tomahawk is the debut album of the eponymous rock super group featuring vocalist Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas), guitarist Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard), bassist Kevin Rutmanis (Cows, The Melvins) and drummer John Stanier (Helmet). With the band members’ collective backgrounds covering post-hardcore, noise rock, country rock and experimental music among other genres it would be difficult to guess what the end result would be although you could describe Tomahawk as an experimental rock album that blends a wide scope of influences together in their own twisted fashion while retaining some pop sensibilities, mostly in terms of song structures.
Gritty lyrical themes appear throughout the album to tackle different subjects with the most noteworthy arguably being found on Flashback, the first song on the album, which starts out with a seemingly harmless description of someone undergoing hypnosis before a sampled voice counts down “3, 2, 1” to start visiting memories to end up diverting into child abuse with snarled lines like “I’m a schoolboy why don’t you teach me/bend over and we’ll hush the squealing/put on the mask and dance for Daddy/wait for the world to say it’s sorry”. The bridge of the song sees it descending into a series of screams and cries that alternate between your speakers and make you think that if this is how the albums starts, it is going to be a twisted experience in one form or another if this is Tomahawk decided to introduce themselves to the world.
101 North focuses on hitchhiking through a ghost town the ends in a hijacking and the ensuing violence whereas the short country song Cul De Sac, which is stripped down to an acoustic guitar and telephone vocals, is used to express an apathetic view of the end of the world with Mike Patton speak-singing “the world is growin’ old/and preparin’ for sleep/but you and me are just not gettin’ outta bed/wakin’ up/sunbathing on the shores of a nightmare”. The lo-fi recording style used on this song adds an eerie touch to it much like the harmonica contribution of JD Wilkes (Legendary Shack Shakers) does to the country rock song Point and Click when it interplays with the bass guitar.
Underneath the grittiness of the lyrics found on many of the songs is a sense of humour and self-awareness in the band which comes out on the satirical Pop 1. This song mocks the nu metal and rap rock trend of the late ‘90s and early 2000s by using a steady drum/bass combo with keyboard ambience for the verses before lunging into a screaming frenzy on the chorus to proclaim that “this beat could win me a Grammy” backed by the guitar. There are more cutting lyrics found throughout the song but they are nigh-on impossible to understand without the lyrics written out in front of you due to the jabbering delivery of them.
Another country-inspired song is the albums closer, Narcosis, which is also sombre in nature and is complete with wordless chanting to counter-balance the noise rock explosion on Laredo. Tomahawk also penned a downbeat quasi-ballad in the form of Sweet Smell of Success complete with elements of noise music as well as the more even-tempered Honeymoon that has subtle glitching noises and panted breathing sounds.
Tomahawk offer a lot of variety on their debut album while managing to strike a good balance between accessibility and experimentation that comes through the blending of some pop sensibilities with different rock subgenres and the creativity that has manifested itself through the members’ collaborative efforts.
Mike Patton: Vocals, keyboards and samples
Duane Denison: Guitar
Kevin Rutmanis: Bass guitar
John Stanier: Drums
JD Wilkes Harmonica on “Point and Click”