Mit Gas

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Tomahawk combines the rockist tendencies of Faith No More with the weirdo prog freakout of Mr. Bungle, two of Tomahawk vocalist Mike Patton's more popularly received projects. The band is actually the project of former Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison, and on Mit Gas, the band's second album, he drops his prior fight for melodic lead, letting Patton growl, sustain, babble, stutter, croon, and yowl through each precision-stopped, layered track. Maybe all those nights of getting booed off the stage while touring with Tool (after the 2001 self-titled release) taught them a thing or two about indulging star power. With John Stanier (formerly of Helmet) and Kevin Rutmanis (the Cows, the Melvins) also on board, though, it's hard to decide who isn't a star. "You Can't Win," a track akin to Mr. Bungle in its circus/lounge mood and cracked chanting, is an outstanding example of Tomahawk's metal kid to avantist maturity -- everything from strings to wood blocks informs a centrally pop song with indiscernibly sinister lyrics reminiscent of Brainiac. The track ends with a hazy ambient moan. It floats into "Mayday," a pretty straightforward metal song. Then there's a dreamy ballad in Spanish, a surf-rock one called "Harelip," and the excellent, slightly Foo Fighters-sounding "Rape This Day." You probably won't find this album at Wal-Mart. It's worth searching out, though, as Patton et al. expand the borders of guitar rock with intelligence and humor more absurd and egalitarian than the band's obvious predecessor -- Frank Zappa.

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