Music

Tomahawk: Mit Gas

Stephen Haag

Tomahawk

Mit Gas

Label: Ipecac
US Release Date: 2003-05-06
UK Release Date: 2003-05-12
Amazon
iTunes

Man, oh man, is Mike Patton talented, but that talent has never translated into stardom. Perhaps the general populace is put off by his depraved lyrics or they just can't keep up with his prodigious musical output in his various incarnations. No matter what the explanation, Patton has never had more than a small, devoted cult audience. Whether inadvertently kick-starting rap-metal with Faith No More, getting in touch with his inner Frank Zappa in Mr. Bungle, or just indulging whatever warped muse he answers to with Fantômas, Patton has always made challenging music that not enough people hear. That streak continues with Mit Gas, the sophomore disc from his latest band, Tomahawk, released on Patton's label, Ipecac Recordings.

It's not as though Patton and his bandmates Duane Dennison (guitar, as well as the band's leader), John Stanier (drums), and Kevin Rutmanis (bass) are worried about their lack of accessibility. All have pulled tours of duty with underground acts (Jesus Lizard, Helmet, and the Melvins, respectively) and they're more interested in technical precision and absurdity than they are with selling records. Heck, the first single off Mit Gas is titled "Rape This Day". Good luck finding that on your radio dial.

But there does exist a viable market hungry for the type of twisted metal Tomahawk plays, and Patton acknowledges that in the opening lyric of the first track, "Birdsong": "I'll feed you now", he growls, employing one of the half-dozen vocals tics in his arsenal. That's one of the rare instances where anything can be ascertained from Patton's inscrutable lyrics. As a recent New York Times concert review of Tomahawk noted, "[Patton] doesn't believe that rock is about honesty, about laying oneself bare, about truth and getting under the skin of his listeners. For him, it is entirely about artifice, and much of it specifically about vocal techniques." Could delivery of lines like "the diaphragm of a nation" (from "Rape This Day") and the übercreepy/funny "I am the harelip / Give me one more kiss" ("Harelip") be what makes Patton a standout and drives away potential fans? Again, Patton doesn't appear to care.

But even if one can't get past Patton's skewed lyrics and hell-torched delivery, there's no denying he's surrounded himself with ace musicians. Dennison, Stanier, and Rutmanis generally stick to heavy-as-hell faux-death metal, with an innovative twist on nearly every track. Horror-movie keyboards welcome the listener to "Rape This Day", while "You Can't Win" veers close to California-era Mr. Bungle with its surfed-out guitars and its tendency to change gears at the drop of a hat. The band buzzes around Patton as he unveils his deepest, cartooniest bass voice. Meanwhile, "Mayday" sound like a haunted submarine (there's no other way to describe it) with agitated guitars and Patton's fuzzed-out voice jumping from speaker to speaker before the evil clears for the chorus and the band sounds like, of all groups, Foo Fighters. It's the album's most accessible 30 seconds.

The band throws in a few curveballs as well. Most notable is "Desastre Natural", a gentle waltz sung in Spanish, that would sound out of place where except a Mike Patton album. If the inclusion of this track doesn't convince you of Patton's demented brilliance, then you'll never be swayed. The same could be said for Mit Gas's final two tracks, "Harlem Clowns" and "Aktion F1413". The former is a mostly instrumental exercise that gives the musicians a chance to shine out from under Patton's vocals, though they do have to contend with a looped sound clip that insists "I don't know how to read notes". (It's not as funny as Patton's "This beat could win me a Grammy" off "Pop 1" from Tomahawk's self-titled debut, but it's a decent joke nevertheless.) "Harlem Clowns" ends with a laundry list of seemingly unrelated musicians being read off -- the band being weird for weirdness' sake.

Album closer "Aktion F1413" plays like Patton's answer to Radiohead's "Fitter, Happier" interlude, as a computer-modulated voice offers "The Basic Principles of Hand-to-Hand Combat". (Rule number one, "Be aggressive" namechecks a track from Faith No More's Angel Dust, for what it's worth.) Intercut between these rules is Patton's least anguished singing, but lest one think Tomahawk's gone soft, the album ends with an overmodulated guitar and drum assault.

Not that there was ever any doubt, given his track record, but Mit Gas delivers the goods for Patton's small, devoted cult audience hungry for rock. If you're not a Tomahawk devotee, wait a week and Patton'll probably have released another album. Maybe you'll like that one instead. In the meantime, Achtung! Mit Gas!

Music
Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists

If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by the quality readership of PopMatters.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Books
Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Film
Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Film

The Road to Murder in Love and War: Three Films from Claude Chabrol

The character's in Claude Chabrol's The Third Lover, Line of Demarcation, and The Champagne Murders are obsessively doubled and mirrored, reflecting and refracting their hunger for sex, love, money, and power.

Film

'Memento' Is the Movie of the Attention Economy

We are afraid of time, and so like Leonard in Memento, we kill it, compulsively and indiscriminately.

Film

What Lurks Beneath: 'Jaws' and Political Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Boris Johnson admires the Mayor in Spielberg's Jaws. Remember him? He was the guy who wouldn't close the beaches -- and sacrifice that revenue source -- during a public crisis.

Recent
Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Music

Lilly Hiatt - "Some Kind of Drug" (Singles Going Steady)

Lilly Hiatt sings about a different kind of love on "Some Kind of Drug". Hers is for a city and the impact gentrification has had its soul.

Music

There's Never Enough Time for Folk Music's James Elkington

The sometimes Wilco and Richard Thompson sideman, in-demand producer, and songwriter, James Elkington, muses on why it's taking longer than he expects to achieve more in a week than most of us get done in a lifetime.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.