Friday, May 12, 2006

THE GOOD: Tool - 10,000 Days

The release of a Tool album is an event unto itself. The band surfaces once every five years to deliver not just another album of radio hits but instead a piece of richly textured sonic art. (If you ignore their early EP Opiate) Even the album Undertow has its own story to it, poignantly woven all the way to its 69th track. Their second full length album, 1996's Aenima, was a musical force, so powerful, it imbedded itself into the top ten of many "Best of the 90s" album charts. The album was a landscape with hills, valleys, rivers, waterfalls that included their weather conditions like hurricanes, avalanches and snowstorms. And if that wasn't daring enough, they even threw in a recipe for cookies in German. In the minds of many hard rock and alternative rock fans, Tool had filled a void of intelligent hard rock left empty by its last resident in Nirvana. Though the two bands were vastly different in their sound, their attitude of thumbing their noses at traditional radio jingles made them that much more appealing.

But after Aenima, we had to wait. We were given an appetizer in a live release, Salival, highlighted by a tortured version of Zeppelin's "No Quarter," but if anything, this didn't satisfy us and only made us hungry for more music. Finally, in 2001, we received Lateralus, not with a bang but with a whimper. Compared to other hard rock albums it was brilliant but following in the footsteps of their last release, it was more of a step down. It didn't have the energy, the originality, or the depth of Aenima. In fact, many felt the album was a throwaway and turned their hopes to A Perfect Circle.

It wasn't until the release of 10,000 Days, that one can look back at Lateralus and finally understand it. Tool albums are not meant to be compared to each other like Bob Dylan or Pixies albums. Each Tool album is its own universe. And the universe is vast. It can't be explored with one trip around the block. It takes dozens of rotations before you can see the whole piece. Why do you think these things take 5 years to make? Lateralus was its own journey into a musical tapestry that wasn't as loud and as fierce as its predecessor. It wasn't lesser, it was just different.

But now 10,000 Days is here. And many of Tool's hard rock fans are sighing with satisfaction because the album reintroduces many of the band's signature metal hooks. Don't get me wrong, it's still not Aenima but then again, it's pretty much a forgone conclusion nothing ever will be. That said, it's more alive than Lateralus. It's more daring but more safe. It's more charged but also more sullen. It has more energy but at the same time more melancholy. The album is its own beast. But more than anything it's a Tool album.

1. Vicarious - The best Tool song in ten years that hits the radio with a 7-minute sonic boom.
2. Jambi - A second 7-minute song with an equal magnitude of musical force. Even if the rest of the album is nothing but chanting, I'll still be happy.
3. Wings For Marie (Part 1) - More of a soft spoken intro to the next song (even though this one is over 6 minutes) its peaceful calm provides the perfect breath before moving on.
4. 10,000 Days (Wings Part 2) - In many ways, this song reminds me of the voyage we took on the song Pushit but many ways this song surpasses it with more beautiful imagery and stronger outbursts. This is pure Tool.
5. The Pot - Enough with the soft stuff. Here's Hooker With A Penis '06.
6. Lipan Conjuring - You know I was just kidding about the chanting thing...seriously.
7. Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann) - For some reason Tool loves to throw in skits that are, well, let's just say...plain weird. Although, more Bill Hicks routines would be welcome.
8. Rosetta Stoned - If you can get past Maynard doing his satanic auctioneer imitation, the rest of the song plows forward with plenty of pulse to revive anyone who slept through the last two songs.
9. Intension - If Air Supply and Tool had a kid, it would sound like this song. Okay that's a bit of a stretch but you get my point...right? Right?
10. Right In Two - Maynard's war protest song uses imagery of evolution as the song evolves on its own pace. Slowly the song builds to an epic flurry of emotions in an outburst that punches the end of the album with a solid exclamation point.
11. Vigniti Tres - The last song is an instrumental that is here more as a warm down. Kind like
at the end of a marathon, where you need to walk around a bit to avoid any cramps.

How does the new album compare?

1. Aenima - A
2. 10,000 Days - B+
3. Salival - B
4. Lateralus - B
5. Undertow - B-
6. Opiate - D

Here are a few Tool gems from the past. I apologize for some of the poor sounding quality on the live songs. Their bootlegs...what are you going to do?

1. Dr. Love - Tool and Faith No More
2. Demon Chaser - Tool (live 98)
3. Silly Love Songs - The Replicants & Maynard (Wings cover)
--------------------- - 10,000 Days

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A testament to Tool is that they are even still making albums given the current, stagnant popular music world.

Personally, I haven't seen them perform for 5+ years, ...but that performance is still fresh in my mind....that says something too. I heard from several people who attended the Cochella festival last month....that Tool was one of the best, insane rocker groups there. At least better than Madonna:) (who also shockly performed amidst alternative rockers)

Yet, with that said.....I'm still not a Tool fan, but I have to respect that they're a tested musical force, relative to today's scene.