We just took an in depth look at the career of Mike Patton, and now Jimmy Monack takes a deeper look at his newest release, which you can also pick up along with a selection of other Patton LPs, in the shop.


The idea of a so-called "super group" has always been rather curious, and smells more like an A&R term than a collection of musicians with like-minded impulses. Whether it is Bloodbath, Audioslave, or the operatic The Three Tenors, the only thing that needs to be deemed "super" or otherwise should be what comes out of the speakers. With this in mind, the new music from Tomahawk (Tonic Immobility) easily stacks-up to prior offerings and any listener will be strained, cuddled, and pummeled unexpectedly through their mix of alternative metal and riff-based grooves only to ask, "Please, Sir. May I have another?"

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With John Stanier on drums, Trevor Dunn on bass and Mike Patton on vocals, the ingredients for power and grace are baked in, but make no mistake; this is guitarist Duane Denison’s baby and the puzzles he brings to the party outshine anything he did with The Jesus Lizard. This is not to say that The Jesus Lizard wasn’t interesting and cool, but Tomahawk is a combination of players whose vocabulary is wide enough to manage the actual breadth of Denison’s compositions.

Most of the songs have an eerie, good cop/bad cop feel, as if the listener doesn’t know if they will continue to be patted on the back or cracked across the jaw. For example, "Tattoo Zero" hovers with lilting storytelling as more of a bed of a soundtrack, only to kamikaze into a chorus that reminds one that the drummer was once in the band Helmet. The key word for the record is tension. There’s plenty of it.

On the other hand, "Dog Eat Dog"'s straightforward nature is refreshingly simple and could easily be placed on an AC/DC record. This is what makes Tomahawk so dynamic: they manage to be complex when needed without ever sounding like prog rock. The best example is during "Fat Back" when Stanier’s deceptively simple notes are tucked into a groove of, well, whatever goddamn time signature that is. Patton's ability to find the downbeat at all to lay down his signature growls and howls is mind-boggling. This, combined with Trevor Dunn’s locked-in bass (from a player who could easily be as frenzied as any fretboard gymnast out there) serves a relentless pressure that the tune delivers. Dennison’s use of some inexplicable musical mode that only Robert Fripp would recognize brings the dizzying, haunting experience full circle.

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Incidentally, this release might be the right time to address an ill-conceived notion Mike Patton has about his own lyrics. He has historically and consistently downplayed his abilities with wordplay: the standard defense is that he usually thinks up the lyrics at the last minute and doesn’t take them too seriously. That may sound wonderfully nonchalant, but it is actually more proof of his ability to create mental pictures that fit seamlessly with Dennison’s out-of-the-blue chord progressions and rhythm. Examples include juxtaposition ("Sharp dresser, Goose-stepping"), personification ("This city, she's purring like a cat and she's in my lap") or imagery ("Watching them honeys twerk, while the hobos jerk"). Use of these rhetorical devices make sense as Mr. Patton's only goal in life prior to becoming a 1990s icon was to study English Literature. It is not a stretch to compare his lyrics to the likes of David Byrne or Bob Dylan. Perhaps someday he’ll realize this.

Mashing-up headlining musicians to form some sort of super group with expectations of automatic greatness is silly and almost not worth discussion. Remember when people were ready to come to blows because Sammy Hagar joined Van Halen? Whatever. Musicians tend to find each other, and Tomahawk is a collection of players that are so in sync that the superlative "super" is almost offensive. Don’t get distracted and, instead, savor Tonic Immobility for all its sonic, dynamic grandeur and rebellious rhythms. It’s here at just the right moment.

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Tonic Immobility released March 26th, 2021 via Ipecac Recordings, and is available on vinyl in our shop along with Mr. Bungle, Faith No More and other Mike Patton releases.

Read more about Mike Patton's many projects, HERE