Tomahawk : Mit Gas

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It’s much to Mike Patton’s credit that he has the ability to often metamorphose anarchic noise into something more than tolerable, thrashy kitsch.

Then again, there is quite a bit of kitsch value to be had on
Tomahawk’s second album, Mit Gas. Leaping between staccato screeches and manic asthmatic growls, time signatures from hell and even arias in a foreign tongue, Tomahawk is something of a progster’s wet dream prompted by Patton’s wild whims. More accessible than Fantomas and Mr. Bungle, the alleged piss-drinker Patton lets the strange sounds fly through the mouthpiece of a gas mask to great effect joined by The Jesus Lizard’s Duane Denison, Helmet drummer John Strainer and Melvins bassist Kevin Rutmanis.

While a memorable mantra from Tomahawk’s first album like “The cat’s in the bag and the bag’s in the river” is pretty hard to match, Mit Gas delivers with memorable absurdist refrains, though most look stranger than they sound when spelled phonetically. “Nightcrawler / Tightrope-walker/ Shubba en meh, babah-tubbah-tai-meh,” or something like it, Patton and company yell en masse on the chorus of “When the Stars Begin to Fall.”

The album stays mostly on the heavy side throughout its 40-ish minute run, opening with “Birdsong,” a punch in the face featuring chirping and a languid, limping chorus. The menacing synth and stray-sound loop of “Mayday” gives way to whistles, inhuman wails and a voice as crunchy as Denison’s guitars after an ambient intro. “You can’t Win” has a rather sparse “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” drumbeat married to stray whirs, wahs, whines and Patton’s whispered threat of rioting.

A grand shift in mood comes when Patton’s bilingual chops get stretched on the pretty, calming, Spanish-sung “Desastre Natural.” This swinging interruption doesn’t seem out of place here (or in any Patton project, for that matter) and is a pretty fun juxtaposition to the chaotic wail on the following song, the previously mentioned “When the Stars Begin to Fall.”

“Stars'” belligerent vocal insanity is complimented by a theremin from the coldest sphere of the inferno. “Harelip,” with its somewhat “Girls of Porn”-esque bassline, rolls about as Patton spins a song of surgery, revelry and smiles.

The eccentricities run wild throughout, but the capper is on “Atkion 13F14” as a Stephen Hawking-like voice gives the listener a brief history of kicking someone’s ass before noise like robots humping on broken glass draw the album’s last listed song to a close.

Similar albums:
Jesus Lizard – Goat
Faith No More – Angel Dust
Frank Zappa – Weasels Ripped My Flesh

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