|Today’s selection is from the year 2001 from the musical mecca of LA.
Tool – Lateralus
Listen to it here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Tool+Lateralus/68752712
Read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateralus
Fun Facts: (lots of them with this album) We observe the traditional album order when we listen in record club, but this album is so heavily tied to the rhythmic ideas of the Fibonacci Sequence (the Fibonacci numbers are the numbers in the following integer sequence: 0, 1, 1, 2. 3, 5, 8, 13, etc…By definition, the first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two.)
The album’s ideas are so closely tied to the sequence that fans started to concoct new album orders for the tracks based on this idea – the most popular of these is the order 6, 7, 5, 8, 4, 9. 13. 1, 12, 2, 11, 13, and finally 10. The surrounding tracks are all grouped into pairs that sum the number 13 and spiraling in toward 13, then outward from it. Fans recognize this order as The Holy Gift album. And thus, depending on how you listen this album may be referred to as Lateralus or the Holy Gift. For today only Lateralus is required…but you’re certainly free to try the Gift as well.
For convenience The Holy Gift has been arranged here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjlaCBI8Oo4
|Tool – Lateralus: 3 stars
Precon: I know Tool fairly well for never listening to a whole album. I’ve even been to a couple of their shows, including one in the final days of the Coliseum. The shows are pretty cool with a lot of on screen visuals to go with the songs. Those stop motion videos used to freak me out when I was younger. Stop motion is always kind of unsettling to begin with and then you have things like the guy who opens up a pipe and there’s like meat or something going through it, or the one with the guy covered in sandpaper who can’t stop twitching…hhughhghuh…gives me the jibblies. Anyway, I believe this album is the last time I heard anything from them. I know and like some of the songs, although my favorite Tool song is Aenema from the album Aenima. That one’s the stones.
Favorite Track: Schism
Oh yeah, Schism. Couldn’t they just call it “I Know the Pieces Fit”? I can never identify Tool songs by name.
Preconceived Notions: Every single time I think of Tool, I think of my friend James. James and I weren’t friends until late Junior year of high school and before that I hadn’t really known him because he always hung out with the vaguely Goth group at my suburban Wallingford school. James was pretty into the opposite spectrum of music from me and was often insistent to me during Senior Biology (it was an advanced Bio class because I refused to take physics after AP Chem) that I should listen to both Tool and Nine Inch Nails. At that time, they were out of my comfort zone, but I figured, they couldn’t be as scary as I initially thought if James was so into them. Now James is married to a girl that all of us knew in high school with 2 children and living in Massachusetts. I’m kind of bummed that now it’s been 10 years since those classroom discussions and therefore, a little bummed about this album, but I’ll finally give it a try although all I’ll ever be able to think of is James with his long-ish hair and his black “TOOL” t-shirt and the possibilities of life that stood just outside those Biology doors.
oh boy, am I in for a whole bunch of epically long heavy songs with nary a string section or brass section in sight? This could be a very long Thursday indeed.
“The Patient” I like this one much better than the first song, probably just because it sounds more melodic to me.
Oh ambient noise breakdowns…I’m not enough of a fan of the band to give this things a pass yet.
For some reason, this reminds me of the male equivalent of Tori Amos. And I really only love one Tori Amos album. And that’s because of the nostalgia attached to that album. Without any ties to the band or the album, this feels overly artsy, for a (insert your chosen genre word here) album.
Ticks and Leeches- I really like the drum solo at the beginning and could have listened to that for a while longer, just to stave off the screaming.
I can’t believe that the song I like most so far on this album is called “Stinkfist”. You can’t go around telling people that.
Faaip De Oiad- oh my god, I hope that this voice message is real. It’s like what I imagine John Hurt’s character from Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull muttering as he draws hieroglyphs all over his Peruvian concrete cell.
Opium for Breakfast-sounds like it would make a wonderful part of a Wheel of Fortune Before & After with Opium for Breakfast of Champions. But I doubt anyone on Wheel of Fortune would know either of those things.
After Listening: Wow…that was more work than I’ve actually put in to a day of work in a long time. I didn’t hate it, I was just, kind of bored by it. 80% of the time, there’s no need for a song to run longer than six and half minutes. I feel like that’s a generous amount of time to give a song. It felt like this album had the equivalent of at least 3 Doctor Zhivago’s on here. It was just too much for a new listener like me. Like I said, I had no ties to the album, it’s certainly not in my wheelhouse and while it wasn’t offensive, it’s not something I choose to own. There’s talent, for sure, and the singing was more often singing than screaming, always a bonus in my book, but it was a slog. Like attempting to ride the Trans-Siberian express in January and having it break down every 3 hours.
Least Favorite Track: The Grudge, because it was long AND screamy. Reflection although long was at least not making me want to press the skip button
|Preconceived Notions: This is actually the only Tool album I own, at the time it was more of an exploration of mine into the rabid fandom that surrounds them. I mean I always sort of enjoyed them, but they never grabbed my attention – until this album came along. This one is generally considered to be the album when Tool stopped flirting with hard rock/metal and went off the edge into art/prog rock. And although no Tool fan will openly bash an album of theirs – this one is probably the least popular of their four current records. I choose it for its commitment to an underlying mathematical idea that in a way makes this probably the most literal concept album we’ve ever done, and 2 because it’s possible to have a discussion on the import of album song order off of this.
After Listening: This album is a tough listen, there’s no way to get around that. I remember thinking when I 1st purchased it, that maybe this was more of a challenge than it was worth. It’s an unrelenting rhythmic assault with dark and dissonant overtones to amp up aggravation. Say what you want about them, and I have a feeling more than one person will detest this record – Tool’s Fibonacci sequence inspiration is present throughout and used as more than a superficial device, it is the very heart of the album. Everything really does “spiral out” in layers on the record- the instruments mimic and then recede in spots to set up the next cycle. The song length of the actual songs on the albums (as opposed to the brief interludes), can be oft putting on 1st listen mainly because the repetition of these cycles sort of bludgeons your ears into defeat and then you have to pick them up off the mat to catch the subtle changes and rather beautiful moments before they disappear. Lyrically, well – it’s art rock lyrics- it will all sort of make sense or not depending on your mood, the subject matters are liquid to a certain degree in the spirit of the ever changing compounding music beneath (and sometimes in front) of them. For causal Tool – or even hard rock fans, the album also provides plenty of power rock riffs- even if they are a means to an end rather than a focal point.
Favorite Tracks: Ticks and Leeches – Tool’s drummer Danny Carey for most of the album languishes in the background- swallowed up slightly in the mix. Not on this track, from the very start we get a nice healthy dose of that type of wide room drumming that makes the kit feel like a 35 piece instrument. The guitar here is also appropriately sparse and serves more as a rhythmic device than for harmony – a last gasp of frustrated angst- “hope this is what you wanted, hope this is what you had in mind”. The extended minimalist breakdown in the middle of the track provides the harmony listeners have been waiting over 3 mins for, with the drums stripped away the notes flourish in the space left behind. And then the bass builds an anticipation as we get ready for the ending movement to be really nothing more than a loud, screaming, cathartic finish.
Lateralus – The title track to album has the most blatant example of the Fibonacci sequence as to quote the wiki: the song’s main theme features successive time signatures 9/8, 8/8, and 7/8. The number 987 is the sixteenth integer of the Fibonacci sequence.. When the song is listened to backwards, it sounds similar to the forwards version. Even the 1st verse is spit out in a Fibonacci sequence (see 2nd video below) But while I certainly wasn’t aware of this on my 1st listen, you could tell something powerful was at work. It’s a more focused effort than some of its surrounding tracks, and the guitar work here is a great lesson in the strength of finally opening up your palm muted chords at key intervals in the phrases. There’s also a great deal of emotion in middle of the piece
“I embrace my desire to
This is referential of course to the rhythm of the universe and how the Fibonacci sequence actually can describe the shape of our own galaxy. (2nd video)
Overall 4.56 In my mind there are fair criticisms to be had with Lateralus, but they’re not the type leveled at it by most listeners. Yes it can be an incredibly frustrating listen-especially the 1st go-round, and if you’re not looking for a record to challenge you-then it’s not for you. It’s also not for you if you really don’t like the prog/hard rock guitar tones/squeals (I think Tool incorporates them better than most-but if it’s not your thing, it won’t be your thing). While it may be easy to ascribe Tool’s alternate album order as the height of pretentiousness, it’s important to note 2 things – one to my knowledge the band itself has never officially acknowledged that The Holy Gift was an idea they considered, and secondly The Holy Gift order does address my chief gripe with this album – mainly that the 1st 4 songs of this album played together one after the other are an almost unfair endurance test- that does strip away enthusiasm for the thing – before it really gets “good”. In any event, I began to enjoy this album as a hard rock emotional construct 1st, and then as a musician getting to analyze and strip away these layers became even more rewarding.
Just some more on Lateralus the song…
And this one shows a little graphically how the Fibonacci sequence can be the heart of universal design. It does go a little overboard in places for example even the Holy Gift order is not a strict Fibonnaci sequence…but if you’ve been wondering why I’ve been hyping the time signatures on this particular song – this video is a great place to begin that actual musical aspect discussion/understanding.
|Tool – Lateralus
Preconceptions: I was working at the Topic the year this album plopped. It was in constant play for a good 9-10 months. Not a fan.
After Listening: Well, it was better now I’m not folding tee shirts and dealing with 15-year-olds.
Overall: This album is that friend you have that is interesting company for a limited time, but doesn’t get the hint when it’s time to leave. Lateralus is still talking about math when you have changed into you your pjs and are standing by the open door with his coat. Maynard’s melodic voice is unusual for alternarock of the late 90’s-early aughts, when every band wanted to look and sound like video game monsters. This places this album at the top of the tolerable Hot Topic noise list.
Rating: 2.9 (lost full point for excessive track length)