06/12/2003 9:30p ET
Dw Dunphy - Reviewer
Although well received, Tomahawk’s debut disc sounded suspiciously like guitarist Duane Denison auditioning a surrogate Jesus Lizard, his well-remembered former band. The songs were tight and short bits of vitriol disguised as accessible indie rock, but even fans of lead singer Mike Patton had to wonder: what would this have sounded like if David Yow sang it?
On the sophomore effort, “Mit Gas”, the question needn’t be asked as the band sounds exactly that a band, unique in its own right. Sure, Patton steps to the fore but it never sounds like a reigned-in Mr. Bungle or Faith No More redux. Tomahawk has become Tomahawk, if that makes any sense.
Patton, as many know, is one of rock’s more versatile noisemakers, as bi-polar as night from day, at one moment whispering sweet nothings into the microphone and then vomiting on it the next. His other mainstay band, Fantomas, is proof positive of this. “Mit Gas” on the other hand, finds him pulling down a bit, keeping the songs more song-oriented. He can’t hold out forever and visceral explosions do appear, specifically on the subdued “Aktion 13F14” that, in the last portion, goes psychotic. Overall, he allows the listener the pleasure of enjoying the ride, rather than trying to push them out of the moving vehicle. Patton is like that kind of brilliant and, all at once, kind of scary.
As for Denison, I haven’t heard his guitar as spastic or as exciting in a while. It was as if he woke up one morning realizing Tomahawk was his band and he could do anything he wanted, and he does. From the air-raid siren of “Birdsong”, the greasy wah-wah of “You Can’t Win” to the somber outro of “Aktion”, a guitar / bass passage calm after the storm and a patch of dead air (it may very well be considered a hidden track), he sounds positively energized.
Kevin Rutmanis of the Melvins and John Stanier, formerly of The Cows, round out the quartet with skill, grace and, when necessary, venom. The intro of “Mayday” is pure rhythm and power; Mr. Kool walking into the room with purpose and confidence and, at the same time, letting you know he’s not to be trifled with. Both players are well-versed in abrupt time changes, style shifts and general jerking-around of the listener but, again, “Mit Gas” makes for a more user friendly experience than its predecessor or the extended family.
The song “Capt Midnight” is ready for alt-rock radio and a prodigious station director would do well to put it in rotation right now. This has never worked before and I doubt it will work now, but it explains why alt-rock stations are so horrible lately. A song that is just risky enough, like “Capt Midnight”, is too risky to place next to… what? Audioslave? The Chili Peppers?
Okay, maybe so. But it’s the best in show.
A word must be said about the packaging of the disc’s Digipak by designer Martin Kvamme and Patton. The old style cigar-company-like logo in embossed bronze on matte black is as tasteful and bold as it is effective. Ipecac Records takes great pride in the presentation of their work and proves, clearly and in no uncertain terms, just because you don’t have the square inches of a vinyl record sleeve does not mean your product needs to look garish and disproportionate.
Second only to Skeleton Key’s “Obtanium”, Tomahawk is a great entry-level initiation into the daunting Ipecac Records roster. It is a solid, unflinching hard rock CD with enough popular smarts to keep you from rejecting it. Duane Denison need not take any more applicants; he’s found all the band he needs.
Copyright © 2002-2003 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
Released: May 06, 1998