20th anniversaries usually consist of bands offering up some bits and pieces compilation to help pay the bills. Not Tomahawk, though.
It’s business as usual and to mark the occasion they bring us their fifth album, the aptly titled Tonic Immobility. An ode to these strange times indeed.
Not even COVID–19 can impinge on Mike Patton’s workaholic tendencies. In fact the likes of Patton were probably made for these times (for starters there’s Mr. Bungle‘s release from last year). True to form, there are probably a plethora of other Patton-related releases in the offing.
Prior to the COVID -19 pandemic, John Stanier was exploring new weird and wonderful worlds with Ian Williams as Battles. There has also been mutterings of new music from The Mark Of Cain, too.
While Trevor Dunn has happily been roped into Patton‘s create-create-create mantra with ‘Bungle, Duane Denison has been steadily sculpturing out the sounds that form Tonic Immobility. Of course, Denison has set aside time to teach a new generation of guitarists aspiring to replicate the heights of The Jesus Lizard with his YouTube tutorials, as well.
So while the members of Tomahawk swim in vastly different waters from year-to-year, it’s always a pleasure to see them reconvene and form their trademark odd-ball spaghetti-western alt-rock.
Granted, it hasn’t always come to fruition. Anonymous (2007) and Oddfellows (2013) were missteps, both falling substantially short of the lofty heights the band reached with their self-titled debut and Mit Gas.
However, in peculiar times a band like Tomahawk operate in their natural habitat and with Tonic Immobility, they have made every post a winner.
“Spill your secrets,” screams Patton on the opening SHHH! – a song with Denison’s creepy guitar noodlings that are tethered with bristling power chords. Along with the COVID-inspired Doomsday Fatigue, it’s the kind of aesthetic the band wowed us with during their self-titled debut.
With a splitting groove and Denison’s hard-edged riff-a-rolla, Valentine Shine is the standout cut on Tonic Immobility and one of the best Tomahawk have given us since the days of Mit Gas. A song like this threatens to leave the rest in its wake, but fear not, there are more highlights to come.
“Let your gut sag to the love shack,” belches Patton during the single, Business Casual – a song that sees Tomahawk poking fun at American working life. And the fun doesn’t stop there, either, as Stanier’s sturdy percussion rides against the waves of Denison’s rangy guitars on the hilarious Tattoo Zero.
Then there’s Fatback and Howlie. A pair of songs that form some sort of weirdo noise-rock hybrid, with Patton and Denison leading the charge like a pair of debauched lunatics taking to the empty streets after last drinks.
Eureka is a languid psychedelic jam that sounds like a conception from a Gothic cathedral while Sidewinder is a melodic piano-led lament that is the closest thing Tomhawk get to the world of balladry. That is until Patton melodically brays, “Get your nuts out of your bank account”. Normal service resumed.
Only Mike Patton could deliver something like this without sounding utterly ridiculous. Absurdity aside, like Eureka, Sidewinder works perfectly within the scope of this album.
Recoil rivals Valentine Shine as Tonic‘s finest jam. It’s the kind of rock ditty that encompasses all moods which leads into Dog Eat Dog. The closing track that sees Denison taking centre stage with those infamous Jesus Lizard tones as Tonic Immobility grinds to a halt.
While many may have thought that Tomahawk had lost their panache, Tonic Immobility quashes these concerns. It’s the best thing the band have produced since the landmark Mit Gas.
Conventionally unconventional, it’s the kind of record that can brighten up your day and in terms of the alternative rock sphere in 2021, there won’t be many albums to rival it.
Tonic Immobility is out now via Ipecac Recordings. Purchase from Bandcamp.