Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tool

Got the new Tool album, 10,000 Days off of BitTorrent the other day. This is my pseudo-review. I say pseudo-review because I'm not a musician. Nor am I an expert reviewer. So, this is pretty much just my opinion on the album and what it is to me.

Anyways...

Tool - 10,000 Days review

After 5 years of waiting for a new album, and coming off of an achievement like Lateralus... expectations were ultra-high for 10,000 Days. For some background, I got into Tool when they released Lateralus. That album is amazing. Very thought provoking and emotional lyrics. Very deliberate and carefully crafted music that ebbs and flows naturally. Listening to that cd start to finish is more an experience and less a series of tracks. But thats besides the point. I thought Lateralus was amazing, so I started listening to more Tool. I checked out Aenima. Another amazing album. Where Lateralus was meditative pondering about life and purpose and meaning, Aenima was the precursor: frustration, angst, bitterness. The most prominent lyrics in Aenima's title track are "learn to swim." This is Maynard's (the lead singers/lyricist) advice, learn to swim... cause Mom's (mother natures) gonna flush it all away and put it back the way it ought to be. Tool progressed from angry, aggressive hard rock band (Undertow)... to angry, frustrated, yearning for more (Aenima), to searching for meaning and peace in a world that is as mysterious as it is saddening as it is wonderful (Lateralus). And this is where 10,000 Days comes in.

What did I expect? I don't know what I expected. More Lateralus? More exploration of purpose, of meaning? Well, 10,000 Days is not what I expected. It's different. In some ways, it's more. In some ways less. If everything was what I expected, I'd never be suprised. I'd never enjoy anything. This album isn't what I expected, but it's exactly what I wanted. Something new and wonderful.

For anyone who isn't a Tool freak (like me), here's some 10,000 Days background to help you understand this album. Maynard James Keenan is the lead singer. He's also the lead singer of a tiny band called A Perfect Circle (if you've ever heard of them). Maynard's mother Judith Marie Keenan suffered a stroke around 1976. She was left partially paralyzed for the rest of her life. Observing the music of A Perfect Circle and Tool, you can tell that Maynard never understood his mother's undying faith in Christianity and God. Lyrics from A Perfect Circles 'Judith': 'Oh so many ways for me to show you how your savior has abandoned you.' 'Jimmy' off of Aenima repeatedly refers to the number 11. Thats how old Maynard Jamed (Jimmy?) Keenan was when his mother had her stroke. Judith passed away in 2003. 10,000 Days is approximately 27 years. That's roughly the same amount of time that Maynard's mom survived with her paralysis. This album is about his mother.

In my opinion the album comes in two waves. Vicarious comes across as the obligatory radio single. It has nice riffs and some good vocals. Some nice screaming, etc. But it sounds very radio. So this song doesn't resonate as much as the rest. But then the album explodes.

The second track, Jambi comes out of nowhere with so much flowing, mixed emotion. It's impossible to not feel this song when you listen to it. Next come the two tracks that combine to make this cd possibly the best work that has ever come from Tool. 'Wings for Marie', and '10,000 Days'. These three tracks combine to make what is essentially Maynard's eulogy for his mother. Jambi is about recognizing his material life, and wanting to wish it all away to have her back. Wings and 10,000 Days continue this sentiment. 'you were my witness, my eyes, my evidence, judith marie, unconditional one'. These songs are almost Maynard's repentance for living a life unworthy of her. 'What have I done to be a son to an angel? What have I done to be worthy?' The music builds slowly and deliberately, and then explodes into crunching guitar and bass and drums. It's hard to listen to this song without feeling all of Maynard's sorrow and pain.

Strangely, this progression of music is interrupted with a somewhat out of place song 'The Pot'. It just doesn't sound right. Not on this cd. I usually skip it at this point. The rest of the cd slowly builds momentum and continues strong from Lost Keys through Right in Two. Not as powerful as the first half of the album, but worthy Tool songs nonetheless.

This album was such a suprise. I didn't like it the first few times I listened to it. But every subsequent time, it has grown on me. To be completely honest, I can't stop listening to it now. I listen to Jambi, Wings pt 1 & 2, Lost Keys, Rosetta Stoned, Intension, and Right in Two... continuously on repeat.

So yeah, now that I've totally made myself out to be one of those Tool fan boys, I think I'll wrap up this review with: favorite album of the year. I hope we don't have to wait 5 more years for the next one. And... I hope I can see them in concert when they tour.