Tag Archives: tomahawk

365 Days of Mike Patton: “Baby Let’s Play,” Tomahawk (2013)

I like ephemeral, hazy Mike Patton songs with dark lyrical matter, and so, I clearly like “Baby Let’s Play,” off Tomahawk’s final album Oddfellows. The guitar is creepy and Patton’s spooky background chants are heard behind lyrics such as:

Baby, let’s play dead
I got a hole in my head
Yeah, baby, let’s play dumb
Straight to kingdom come
Let the ashes fall
Fall down on me tonight
Bone dry…
Bone dry…
Bone dry…

Take a listen for yourself and feel the entrancement.

Even the abrupt ending of the tune is jarring, kind of like you were just in a minor car accident after taking your eyes off the road for only a half-second.

Pitchfork called “Baby Let’s Play” an “open-ended creeper” that swells “like the score to a dusty horror flick … Keeping things a little uncomfortable is certainly the goal here; these songs have this kind of festering, acid-stomach chemistry to them, weird and unsettling even when they’re not particularly trying to be.”

I think, though, this song is trying to be weird and unsettling. To my ears, that’s exactly the point.

Previously from Tomahawk’s Oddfellows:

365 Days of Mike Patton: “Omaha Dance,” Tomahawk (2007)

This is my favorite song on Tomahawk’s Anonymous album. The lyrics contain only 26 words, but it’s Mike Patton’s most powerful singing on the record.

As we’ve come to learn, this record was conceived by guitarist Duane Denison after he went on a tour of Native American reservations with Hank Williams III. As such, the songs on Anonymous are steeped (and seeped) in Native American music.

Which is why you get plenty of chanting (and Native American inspired percussion) on this record and on this tune.

Like I wrote, I’m a huge fan of this song. But not everyone is apparently. As Prefix Mag wrote, Patton “smothers the melodies of ‘War Song’ and ‘Omaha Dance’ with the same ambient synthesizers, clanking samples and wacko vocal spasms that he brings to everything that he’s ever done. Denison and [John] Stanier laid down their guitar and drums tracks before Patton got involved; I wonder whether the album would have been more emotionally powerful if he hadn’t touched it.”

No, Prefix Mag, that’s an incorrect opinion! We wouldn’t be writing the 365 Days of Mike Patton if he smothers everything he touches!! We wouldn’t be producing a year’s worth of Patton contact if all he did was “wacko vocal spasms”!!!

Anyway, the song is pretty fabulous and a real highlight on what’s one of Patton’s most interesting albums.

Previously from Anonymous:

To follow along on the 365 days of Patton, click here for a list of each day’s post.

365 Days of Mike Patton: “The Quiet Few,” Tomahawk (2013)

While Mike Patton is quite obviously a big part of this band, guitarist Duane Denison gets much of the credit for being the driving force behind Tomahawk. The Oddfellows album isn’t much different in that regard. Patton is great on the album, but the record doesn’t always focus on him and his vocal work.

Previously, Denison had said, “I wanted [Tomahawk] to be a rock band in the sense of you play songs. Songs, meaning you have auditory landmarks, recurring motifs, things that recur throughout the song.” Meaning, I guess, that Patton, by design when it came to Tomahawk, was a little less experimental with his voice than in his other projects.

On “The Quiet Few,” though, Denison gives way to Trevor Dunn, a longtime bandmate of Patton’s in Mr. Bungle and Fantomas who joined Tomahawk for this album as the bassist. As Pop Matters wrote in its review of Oddfellows, Dunn—“a welcome addition”—shines on “The Quiet Few.”

“Often times,” Pop Matters wrote, “his and [drummer John] Stanier’s low-end provide the stable bedrock on which their compatriots can run amok, while at different points, they take to the forefront, as on ‘The Quiet Few,’ wherein Denison’s searing guitar takes a backseat, functioning like a panning searchlight, to the rumbling and clangy rhythm section.”

Patton’s vocals shift from gritty to a straight hard-rock sound. But Dunn takes the lead here, and like throughout much of their careers, Patton’s voice complements him quite well.

Previously from Tomahawk’s Oddfellows:

To follow along on the 365 days of Patton, click here for a list of each day’s post.

365 Days of Mike Patton: “Jockstrap,” Tomahawk (2001)

I’ve read a couple different reviews of Tomahawk’s first album, also called Tomahawk, and they refer to “Jockstrap” as a tune with a “jazzy undertow” or song featuring “jangly blues.”

When I listen to “Jockstrap,” I don’t really hear either country or the blues. To me, this song is kind of droney rock with a few punk explosions that break up the monotony. I don’t love this song, but I don’t mind it either.

In the YouTube comments for the video below, somebody said the song was ripping off Faith No More’s “Be Aggressive” (we’ll get there eventually), while somebody else said it reminded them of Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People.” I’m not sure I hear either song in “Jockstrap,” which just proves to me that nobody knows what the hell this song is supposed to be.

An old interview with Tomahawk guitarist Duane Denison—probably the driving force of the band—and drummer John Stanier might have given us a clue why there are so many different opinions about what the song sounds like.

“I wanted [Tomahawk] to be a rock band in the sense of you play songs. Songs, meaning you have auditory landmarks, recurring motifs, things that recur throughout the song,” Denison told TV Eye in 2003. “[Patton] does a lot of experimenting stuff, things where it goes all over the place, where the thematic continuity can sometimes be in question.”

Countered Stanier: “Each Tomahawk song has a complete mood of its own.”

Perhaps the mood for “Jockstrap” is a simple one: Maybe it’s just completely schizophrenic.

To follow along on the 365 days of Patton, click here for a list of each day’s post.

365 Days of Mike Patton: “Totem,” Tomahawk (2007)

The first two Tomahawk records were some of the most mainstream music Mike Patton has participated in since his Faith No More days. But the third album, Anonymous, was a departure, as it paid tribute to Native American music while giving Patton and the rest of the band plenty of room to interpret the material.

We’ve already touched on “Sun Dance,” the only single to be released from the album. “Totem” is a heavier tune with a haunting guitar, pounding drums, and ancient chanting (even the moments of clapping sound a little creepy). Patton sings softly for most of the song before changing his tone and getting a little more intense.

Here’s a live version where Patton has some fun with the crowd before the band breaks into the song. Patton is pretty intense when he’s singing, but he’s got nothing on drummer John Stanier.

In 2007, Duane Denison—Tomahawk guitarist, formerly of the Jesus Lizard, and the man who (and I’ll certainly make note of this in every song I cover off Anonymous) got the inspiration for this album while touring Native American reservations with Hank Williams III (!)—was asked how the project would be received by Tomahawk fans.

“I think they’ll like it,” Denison told MTV. “It’s a bit different from the previous two albums, which are fairly straightforward modern rock. But really, this album’s not so different for us. It’s still a rock album, and people who like what Patton does expect him to continually do different stuff. So, some people might hate it and think it’s a stupid idea, that it’s pretentious crap and ask us what we were thinking. Other people will like it because it’s different and well done. We’ll just have to see.”

I’m not sure the album or this song is pretentious—I lean toward no—but there’s no question it’s different. And I think well done.

To follow along on the 365 days of Patton, click here for a list of each day’s post.

365 Days of Mike Patton: “White Hats/Black Hats,” Tomahawk (2013)

When Tomahawk convened to record its Oddfellows album, it needed less than a week to be written and recorded. This was a tight musical unit, and even though a new bassist had been hired, it was Trevor Dunn, the bassist in Patton’s other bands Mr. Bungle and Fantomas.

There doesn’t appear to be any great backstory to this song. It’s just Patton growling and then singing. Then growling some more before opening his voice once again.

There’s plenty of highlights on Oddfellows, which was Tomahawk’s first new release in six years. This song isn’t necessarily one of those highlights. But it’s pleasant nonetheless, and sometimes that’s good enough.

To follow along on the 365 days of Patton, click here for a list of each day’s post.

365 Days of Mike Patton: “Sun Dance,” Tomahawk (2007)

Mike Patton likes creating themes for his various albums with his various bands. Fantomas recorded an album covering famous movie soundtrack songs. His Mondo Cane record is a collection of various Italian pop songs from the 1950s and 1960s. His third album with Tomahawk—after Faith No More, this is probably his most mainstream band—followed that pattern.

Like Fantomas, Tomahawk was a super group featuring Duane Denison (Jesus Lizard) on guitar, Kevin Rutmanis (Melvins) on bass and John Stanier (Helmet) on drums.

Anonymous was a collection of Native American compositions—which, as noted by Pitchfork, was (and this might be the most random sentence you read today) “researched by Denison while touring reservations with Hank Williams III.” “Sun Dance” was the only single to be released from the album, and yes, it sounds like a song that was originally a Native American composition that was researched on a reservation with a country music legacy star. Except this features Patton mostly chanting “Hey ya” over a grooving bass line and a mystical guitar sound.

Pitchfork isn’t exactly known to be nice to musicians in its reviews, and as the author wrote regarding Anonymous, “And here I thought Patton had run out of ways to alienate people and limit his own appeal.” But this song (and most of this album) is a pleasant listen, even if Denison’s influence is felt more than Patton’s.

To follow along on the 365 days of Patton, click here for a list of each day’s post.