By now you either know who Tomahawk are, or you don’t.
Given the increasingly marginalised nature of the media, it’s more and more difficult for bands not only to get publicity, but for established bands to maintain their public profile. Even massive bands like REM, Depeche Mode, and The Cure, are now deemed retro and past it by the programmers who desperately claw to the last bits of their influence and relevance, and who deem pale retreads of bands-that-werent-very-good-in-the-first-place the next big thing.
And so “new” bands featuring members of once big and brilliant bands have to struggle twice as hard. Without a chance of being hailed as new, and being judged largely on past glories, if you were too young then, or didn’t believe the hype, they’ll have no chance now. And this is problem Tomahawk face. They’re good. They’re very good. But they’re also past their youth, and have to rely on little more than the Internet and large tours of small places to spread the word.
Firstly some names for you. Faith No More. The Melvins. Helmet. The Jesus Lizard. These are the bands the people in Tomahawk used to be in. And it’s a blatant turn to the styles they used to forge. Instead of the bizarre, semi-incoherent, leftfield brilliance of Fantomas and Mr. Bungle, Mike Patton guides Tomahawk, one of three bands that he’s a member of, to the traditional riff-verse-chorus style that Faith No More excelled at, through his second all-new studio album of the year (and – including Mr. Bungle’s earliest work - the 19th album he’s made since 1987). Though to describe anything he’s recorded as conventional or traditional just doesn’t seem right.
The wit and style which runs through Patton’s previous work is here in abundance. Lyrically he’s never been better with such nuggets as the Britneybaiting ‘This beat could win me a grammy!’, as “Laredo”s infectious ‘The cats in the bag and the bags in the river’. He promised a return to the style of Faith No More, and he’s right. It’s easily the most conventional album he’s made in the past five years. With discernable lyrics! Choruses! And Proper Songs!
If you know what Faith No More, or Mr. Bungle, or Fantomas, sound like, then you know what kind of ballpark Tomahawk play in and you’ll also then know that you’ll like it if you ever get the chance to hear it. With one of the best vocalists (to call him a ‘singer’ does him an injustice) currently recording, and a trio of musical visionaries behind him, as well as a return to the kind of style he left behind in 1995, Tomahawk are an acquired taste, but a good one.
Supercatchy, earstretching vocals, dark lyrics rich in black humour, swathes of crunchy guitars, and some of the most unusual rhythms to be played by human hands since time began all juggle for dominance in this no-doubt-to-be-critically-and-commercially-ignored work. Just you watch. In a few years time this will be hailed as an under-rated, (and under-selling) work of a genius.
8Mark Reed's Score