Tomahawk image by Eric Livingston

“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is a noise rock legend, from a band of fellow Mount Rockmore alumni (see pic).

Tomahawk have a brand new album on Ipecac called Tonic Immobility and listening to it takes me back to all my favourite albums of a few years back (the 90s were a few years back right?)

It’s tough like granite and full of enough edges to take your eyes out. And no wonder when you analyse the personnel responsible – Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard/Unsemble), Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle/Fantômas), Mike Patton (Faith No More/Mr. Bungle, etc.) and John Stanier (Helmet/Battles). It’s a check list of my favourite bands, how could it be anything less than earthquakingly great?

Trevor’s heavy duty elastic bass stylings not only drive this beast, he’s also at the very heart of last year’s The Raging Wrath of The Easter Bunny Demo re-recorded and re-imagined from its original 1986 incarnation by Mr. Bungle also on Ipecac Records.

Dunn is a bassist, double bassist and composer who has also released a series of records as a band leader, been an incisive sideman to John Zorn, and a sometime member of the Melvins. Basically the boy Dunn good. And he’s delivered a meaty slab as his choice of tune here too, which is most welcome. Greetings Trevor Dunn!

“Tonic Immobility” is the first full-length album by Tomahawk in 8 years, and their first new music since 2014’s “M.E.A.T.” single.

Starting with an almost metallic tip toe of a song “SHHH!” that’s like The Jesus Lizard and James Chance widdling on a copy of QOTSA’s “The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret”, it’s truly off with a bang, and some super sinister stop start staccato action.

Patton’s lyrics are dripping with contempt whether talking about whistling teeth or a (very now) Covid smile, or with such age-raddled epithets like “got some new fuckin’ silver hair” or anti-capitalist tirades “get your nuts out of your bank account”.

Axe wielding Denison has the arcwelding steeleyed, snake-skinned guitar stylings that are reminiscent of the very best of The Jesus Lizard, especially on the almost Boilermaking “Recoil”.

Stanier’s drumming is at times a relentless call of the wild, at others its the very pivot upon which the ultra literate dynamics of “Tonic Immobility” launch – nothing immobile about his trap-style. But the sonic Araldite adhesion to the whole shooting match comes from the  excitement of the fat bass propulsion powered with aplomb by Trevor Dunn.

Not that we didn’t know that Tomahawk were a totally cerebral assault, but Trevor’s choice of tune is astute, well appointed and carefully considered. So without further ado, here is Trevor Dunn’s “song for ewe”…

“Stump: Bone

It continues to surprise me how few people knew about Stump in the late ‘80s when their debut record “A Fierce Pancake” was released on Chrysalis in the US. It shouldn’t surprise me, after all, label-mates Huey Lewis & Pat Benatar were pumping out hits then. Also, it was by hermetic, small-town chance that I ever heard of them. My friend Trey Spruance had seen a video on the almighty NightFlight TV program which, for us, preceded MTV and was also more adventurous.

Trey randomly came across the record in town but doubted it was the same band since the artwork wasn’t congruous with the insane music he’d heard. It wasn’t long before he passed this one CD in town amongst friends and the few of us who had the stomach for it were hooked.

For anyone captured by “Bone”, your best bet would be finding the “The Complete Anthology” on Sanctuary Records, which includes “Pancake “as well as a couple EPs and their even more obscure follow-up work. In the liner notes, bassist Kev Hopper talks about the very deliberate concept of the band, how “chords were accidental”, and he uses words such as “bendy”, “squawky” and “wobbly”.

I think “Bone” sums that all up pretty well. Mick Lynch’s head-scratching melodies and the over-all sea-sickness of the whammy bar guitar and fretless bass harmonic slides were highly influential. This was something new. It still is! At the same time, much is completely catchy and singable. Go figure. Also consider the “hook” style of drumming. These are not beats, they are dedicated, contrapuntal lines. Certainly there is some Captain Beefheart modelling going on, yet for someone my age at the time, Stump resonated, and I think a lot of that has to do with the singablity.

There is a pop drama infused into this out-to-lunch “rock” music that any post-metal kid who was checking out, say, the Meat Puppets or Firehose would be drawn to. The intro alone, before Mick even comes in with “Whoops too soon, whoops too fast” showcases a very clean production but with plenty of weirdness. Chris Salmon overdubs melodic slide guitar over an already whammied-out part while Hopper outlines the amorphous A to E progression with wide vibrato. The verse makes great effort to avoid any harmonic foundation deceptively housed in a 4/4, four bar phrase, and I defy academics to transcribe it.

The chorus (?) is more melodic with a vaguely E sus to A sus progression. The drama builds as Lynch describes what, for all my interpretation, is some sort of biblical, hunter-gatherer discovery by a man of his own manhood whist an angelic female choir accompanies the crescendo. The arpeggiation of the world “realize” that morphs into “bone” (or perhaps “realizo”) is a key Stump moment—far too progressive, humorous and unexpected than what any other ‘80s band was putting forth.

A collective with this sort of innovation was bound to burn out quickly. Fortunately Kev Hopper is still quite active and has a prolific and inviting Bandcamp page. His inimitable bass technique as well as proclivity for pushing envelopes are fully intact. RIP Mick Lynch.

-Trevor Dunn (Brooklyn, 2021)”

MANY THANKS TO TREVOR DUNN AND TO LAUREN BARLEY OF RARELY UNABLE PR

“Tonic Immobility” is out tomorrow, Friday 26 March on Ipecac and you can get it here

“The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo” (another timely release) is available here

Tomahawk Discography
Tonic Immobility – 2021
Oddfellows – 2013
Anonymous – 2007
Mit Gas – 2003
Tomahawk – 2001

Here’s all the required Tomahawk links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tomahawkband

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tomahawkband

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tomahawktheband/

If you want to see the most recent “song for ewe” choice from Tomahawk’s Duane Denison check it out below…

DUANE DENISON of THE JESUS LIZARD – Song For Ewe