ALBUM REVIEW: Tomahawk – ‘Tonic Immobility’

Words by Shannon-Lee Sloane {The Colourful Writer} 

I sit down at my laptop and grin from ear to ear as I pop my pastel pink headphones on and tune in to review this one. What an absolute pleasure and a welcomed addition to this week’s busy schedule. Everyone who ‘knows’, just fucking knows. Mike Patton is some kind of wizard-like musical chameleon, he can twist, turn and apply his talents to whatever band he is working with at the time. In this instance, add guitarist Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard), drummer John Stanier (Helmet), bass player Trevor Dunn and you’ve got one hell of a ‘supergroup.’ Whether you like that term or not, it rings true here, there’s no doubt. Tomahawk are a band that exceed all limits of seriously killer music. The new album, ‘Tonic Immobility’, from this talented four piece is like a steaming hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night AND it’s got extra marshmallows on top. It’s gosh darn delicious and it warms you from the inside out. 

Whilst Patton’s bands are all quite different from the next. There is one common ground they (mostly) all seem to have; an experimental approach. No rules. No boundaries and often, no specific genre. This appeals to my mixed genre loving heart, because I do, in all honesty, love and appreciate all music, across all genres. The thing that is really special about Patton though, is that he can combine genres, sounds or vibes that you probably normally wouldn’t think of putting together. But he does it, and it fucking rocks. Every single time. 

I seem to have stumbled across several more experimental albums to review so far this year. My recent review of Rob Zombie’s ‘The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy’ also had me delving into depths of music that has no boundaries. No rules. But all of the magic. Again I find myself immersed in such magic. This time with Mike Patton leading the pack. 

SHHH! opens the album with an almost trance-like beat before the unquestionably recognisable deep, husky vocal from Patton comes in, a spoken word/growl, that develops into a roar as the music kicks in loudly. Oh and some whispers too. What an opening track! It is actually hard for me to relay into words just how this track made me feel upon first listen. From the very first beat, I felt a surge through my body, like electricity. And when the track really kicks in? My heart skipped a beat. New music from bands as talented and unique as Tomahawk make me so happy. In this moment, nothing else matters. All that matters is the music. I play this track over and over and familiarize myself with each word, each note, each layer. I am only on track one. There is more yet to come. Bliss. 

Valentine Shine, a groovy heavy bass line and some growls and yells kick this one off. There is something about this track that is just gosh darn sexy. Predators and Scavengers is more fast paced, guitars and drums giving me a Primus vibe and echoing vocals that seem disjointed with the music and yet somehow still flowing. The vocals here are almost reminiscent of a bit of Bowie. Think ‘Labyrinth’ soundtrack vibes. Yep, it’s there. 

Doomsday Fatigue has got some heavy grunge vibes and mood going on. Early Nirvana mixed with Alice In Chains. I am so in love right now. Oh but then, out of nowhere it slows down and a more delicate sound and vocal takes it to a softer place. Then back to the grungy sound. Echoing screams thrown in. Layers. Layers. Layers. At times sounding like there are two Mike Patton’s, one singing in each of my ears. The effects on the vocals making it seem that way. 

Business Casual. The first single released from the album, the first taste, the entrée if you will. What an absolute banger to unleash straight up. I adore this track. The lyrics to this one are also highly amusing:

“Whiskey dick.
With a homemade vasectomy.
Sharp dresser, goose-stepping
Silent man with the mafia clan.
Half price until they’re free.
Cat eyes are living in trees.
Low carbs and gluten free.
Bad cholesterol
We dress in business casual
We suck the fat of man son
Lipped up like ghost wall street punks…”

Duane recently commented: “As the title suggests, it’s a mocking look at the life of work in America. On the other hand, it has nothing to do with anything.” and that seems to be a bit of a vibe throughout the album. But that’s a little bit perfect really isn’t it? Life is all a bit too serious lately. So mocking day to day life and writing songs about nothing to do with anything is a refreshing change to daily stress and seriousness. I for one am all for it. 

Tattoo Zero gives me big Tea Party or Nick Cave kind of vibes. Dark, brooding vocals open the track. The guitar seemingly played slowly and purposefully, very focused, articulated. The drums and bass framing the guitar and vocals. A swirling vortex of sounds spat out at you. Onto Fatback which has a bassline I adore and a steady, strong heartbeat of a sound to it overall. Howlie gives me a whole other vibe, like some prog-ish metal/rock sound. Almost a tribal layer in there too perhaps? Like a slowed down Sepultura sound? I don’t know. My mind is struggling to decide what is happening with this one. But I love it all the same. The way the words are delivered here are something different again also. Precise, stop and start, word by word. Clearly heard. Before becoming screeches and yowls, like a wolf unleashed. “Where’s my soul!?” 

Eureka; a slowly erupting sound, like the opening scene to a movie about war or something dark. Patton’s vocals travel from ear to ear in my headphones. An eerie scene is set in my imagination. Where will this one take me? A dark night. A storm. The shortest track on the album. It is done. 

Sidewinder. Let’s go somewhere completely different. Beautifully sung, a softer, delicate vocal. A mention of unicorns. But then also a mention of ‘getting your nuts out of your bank account…’ I think I heard that right? Then the anger rises. Screams replace soft vocals. The talent of each band member’s abilities on their chosen weapons/instruments is highlighted here as Patton just continuously confirms to me how amazing this man really is. Sigh. 

Recoil. Funky as heck bass line. I am grooving in my seat. Hard not to move around to this one. The album is wrapped up into a neat parcel with the final track, the second single released from the album, Dog Eat Dog. This one came with a very visual music video. In some parts quite disturbing as two men, treated more like fighting dogs, go at each other until they are both a bloodied mess. Whilst the footage flicks to and fro between cute puppies and dogs and the bloodied men. The song itself, a good single, as it’s got a catchy as heck riff and overall sound. Oh and some whistles in there from Patton and a falsetto kind of vocal in places too. Because, why not? It works. 

It’s been twenty years of Tomahawk and seven years since their last album release (‘Oddfellows’ – 2013). Their new musical offering has arrived (for me, and probably for many of us) at a time when needed most. A break away from reality and into the minds and creative souls of these four fine musicians. All led by a man who is like no one else. A gift to the world of music lovers. In the form of Tomahawk’s ‘Tonic Immobility’. Thank you for the music. 

Do yourselves a favour and pre order yourself a copy now. I bet it’ll lighten your load too.  

‘Tonic Immobility’
Album out Friday 26 March through Liberator Music/Ipecac Recordings
Available to pre-order here

‘Tonic Immobility’ tracklist:
1. SHHH!
2. Valentine Shine
3. Predators and Scavengers
4. Doomsday Fatigue
5. Business Casual
6. Tattoo Zero
7. Fatback
8. Howlie
9. Eureka
10. Sidewinder
11. Recoil
12. Dog Eat Dog

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With thanks to Liberator Music + Mushroom

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