Tomahawk
Tonic Immobility


3.4
great

Review

by JohnnyoftheWell STAFF
March 28th, 2021 | 69 replies


Release Date: 03/26/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Best metal album since Sunbather.

When did Mike Patton grow up?

Don’t you dare answer that - it would be a disservice to Tomahawk’s long-awaited(?) comeback Tonic Immobility, a record stuck so firmly in the past that superimposing any kind of long-run character progression or maturity chart would feel like a false metric. This record’s spiritual release date is something in the region of 2005, as the follow-up to 2003’s rock scorcher Mit Gas. It’s a high-(but not too high!)-octane showcase of Patton’s talents and the rest of his alternative-noise-rock supergroup’s alike: what an opportune day for anyone eager to hear him kick up sparks alongside the Jesus Lizard’s Duane Denison (guit.), Helmet’s John Stanier (dr.) and All Of New York Experimental Music’s Trevor Dunn (bass) like the last decade-and-a-half had been wiped clean off the slate. That will probably be most of us; it’s not like that timespan has been particularly exciting for Tomahawk. 2013’s Oddfellows was an undercooked snooze and while 2007’s Anonymous was a genuinely interesting reworking of traditional Native American melodies, it had as much replay value as yesterday’s roadkill. Whether you count these albums as missteps or worthwhile detours, Tomahawk are now back where they were always meant to be: in the mid-’00s, at the helm of ultra-snide fat-free battery-acid semi-feral rock bruisers.

In other words, Tonic Immobility is a suspiciously comfortable trip down memory lane. Perhaps foolishly, this is the last thing I expected from a Patton project in 2021; in an almost disturbingly relaxed interview with Eric Andre last year, he was all too happy to wax irreverent about discarding the legacy of Mr. Bungle, holy cow to music nerds of all walks and waistlines, into a meet-your-heroes homage to good ol’ rusty thrash metal. Tonic Immobility walks that attitude briskly back into the same sordid narrations and performative inflections he’s been sneering and howling for years before Tomahawk ever existed. Sure, he drops the occasional nod at twerking or Covid because #zeitgeist, but for the most part he clings so faithfully to a version of his style that has hardly changed in over twenty years. Denison sits in a similar boat; outside of Anonymous, I’m not convinced he’s laid down anything on a Tomahawk record that advances on his heyday with the Jesus Lizard, and this record is no exception.

Credit where it’s due, the pair are formidable performers and a rhythm section made up of Dunn and Stanier is one to starve for. The band may draw from an unchanged toolkit, but their chops are as sharp as ever and they dish out flashpoints like no-one’s business: “Tattoo Zero” kicks off from a grotty bar number into a deliciously warped polymetrical freakout, “Recoil” trades off Patton’s catchier hooks against beefy King For A Day…-esque riffs with bubbly relish, and opener “SSSH!” is as barnstorming a revival of the Tomahawk fundamentals as any you could hope for. However, there are points where I struggle to find the thrill in that formula, whether it’s a snarky Patton-patented two-line hook (“Business Casual”), a Goat-worshipping slugger (“Fatback”), or a noirish slowburner more rife with deja vu than a TV sunrise (“Doomsday Fatigue”). These are old-hat, and the band’s occasionally plain songwriting makes it no secret that they could churn these out like spare daydreams. It’s no coincidence that the album’s strongest track, “Sidewinder”, is the only one on which both Patton’s profane character acting and the band’s writing approach finds itself developed beyond the scope of past tropes. The song hits a volatile peak, only to stop in its tracks and reverse into an unexpectedly vicious barrage of jibes pointed firmly in the direction of overentitled ne’er-do-wells. It’s juxtaposed with a surprisingly stirring background, sombre and dramatic enough to fit right into Twin Peaks. It’s inspired and provocative and thoroughly engaging in a way no-one else could have milked for quite the same level of entertainment.

Tonic Immobility has all too few moments on this level of audacity. It’s a competent album, fun and succinct enough for a worthwhile playthrough but too full of yesterday’s novelty to shrug off the why here? why now? concerns destined to orbit any comeback record. Individual listeners will find their own ways to make peace with this, but I struggle to view it as more than a back-to-basics top-up from an act that had very little to prove. Blessed and cursed with a handful of the most talented names in rock, it’s equal parts a welcome return and a missed opportunity. The album’s final gag is brutally reflective of this: We are Tomahawk, and we approve this message asserts Patton in deadpan is so resolute that I’m reasonably confident it would have made multiple humans laugh out loud had it been delivered at the turn of the century. Time is a cruel mistress.




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user ratings (58)
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2021


34928 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

Pretty good album, though nothing to start a blog over. Goat is still one of the best rock albums of all time, probs go listen to that instead I guess

Digging: Xiu Xiu - OH NO

Chambered79
March 28th 2021


771 Comments


Awesome review

kkarron
March 28th 2021


78 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Sigh. I thought the same listening to it. It's fine, but it most definitely is dad experimental rock.

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 28th 2021


37164 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"dad experimental rock"

Ok I'm listening

Digging: Greta Van Fleet - The Battle at Garden's Gate

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2021


13800 Comments


great review dawg

Digging: My Bloody Valentine - m b v

FabiusPictor202
March 28th 2021


639 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

nice, tentatively looking forward to spinning this

Digging: Cannibal Corpse - Violence Unimagined

Pho3nix
March 28th 2021


1069 Comments


Need to give 'Anonymous' a re-listen, kinda forgot about this band.

Thanks for the rev!

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2021


24228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sweet stuff Johnny, glad it got your treatment.

Digging: Spectral Wound - A Diabolic Thirst

Rowhaus
March 28th 2021


4156 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Patton is clearly running on fumes

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2021


34928 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

this was a joyless write lol, but Patton's still got it it - doesn't do anything new here, but his performance is as dynamic as it's always been

Rowhaus
March 28th 2021


4156 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I just found this boring for the most part. Tattoo Zero and Howlie were pretty neat tho.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2021


34928 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

Okay but you still have this rated 2.0 higher than Goat, so imma sit here laughing quietly

porcupinetheater
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2021


7557 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Tried it last night and felt like a 3.5 but second guessing that cause Hell if I can remember anything about it like 12 hours later

Gyromania
March 28th 2021


32275 Comments


The most lol summary of 2021 has arrived

oltnabrick
March 28th 2021


40175 Comments


wtf the summary

Digging: Meat Computer and KirbLaGoop - Goop Computer

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2021


8743 Comments


Damn, Johnny out here trying to flush 8 years of metal down the toilet with that summary

porcupinetheater
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2021


7557 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Uh oh Blood Incantation was too big and now the toilet’s clogged.

Should’ve courtesy flushed after Mgla

teamster
March 28th 2021


5524 Comments


Holy shit Sowing - I love your dig. I hope I am partly responsible : )

Digging: Pull Down the Sun - Of Valleys and Mountains

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2021


8743 Comments


I was just about to mention Blood Incantation porc 😂

DatsNotDaMetulz
March 29th 2021


4051 Comments


Worth noting the music for this was all recorded about 4 years ago. Mike finally got around to recording the vocals last year when all his other projects got put on hold.



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