Friday, May 6, 2011

Tool - Lateralus

Tool - Lateralus
Published in 2001

First off, thanks to Paul for recommending this album.  I actually have a ton to say about Tool, so this should be an interesting one.

I have several friends who are big Tool fans.  I try not to hold this against them.  It's one of those strange things that I have a problem with, but I think one of them clarified it for me.

You see, even Tool doesn't like Tool fans.  I know this for a fact, because Mr. Keenan beats the ever living shit out of his fans if they try to get close to him. I hope that video is up on Youtube, because it serves a warning about what everyone thinks about Tool fans.  So thank you Mr. Cooney for teaching me that I can like Tool and not be an asshole.

Not that I really like Tool, even to this day.  I've had a long and complicated history of loving some of their stuff and haaating other parts of it.  It is with this mindset that I get down to writing about Lateralus.

This is a great album by a band that is incredibly accessible to the wrong kind of people to be listening to this music.  The ideas of the album are deep and the music is incredibly complex, and these things make people feel like they are just like the person writing it.  The problem is, the people who are feeling that are not as deep as the people making the album.  They are just a bunch of drunken assholes in shirts, who tell you that just because you don't think that Tool is the greatest band in history, you are a fucking asshole.

I don't mean to keep writing about Tool fans, but it's one of those groups of musical snobs that I cannot get over.  As is obvious by my blog, I attempt to have a diverse taste in music.  I really enjoy listening to things that are different, and I love finding something new that intrigues me.  So anyone who latches onto one band to the exclusion of great music elsewhere is doing themselves a terrible disservice, and they are doing the band a disservice.  If you are going to try to get people to like your favorite band, the best way is not to say, "this is a pile of shit that you are listening to, you need to listen to this and this alone."  People seem to be turned off by that.

Okay, Matt, it's time to focus on the album.  Please let these assholes get out of the way of you enjoying the album, so that we can all go home and feel good about ourselves.

Because of the asshole quotient of their fans, I have never actually listened to a Tool album all the way through, and I rolled my eyes at doing so when I heard this suggestion.  But because I love my readers and people who suggest things, I've been trying to open my mind to it, and I have to say, I'm incredibly impressed.

The music is driving, meaningful and deep. It has incredibly good song structures, and it always leaves you guessing where it is going.  The lyrics deserve to be singled out, because they inspire the perfect amount of pathos and rage, showing how well the band understands the lonelyness and anger that lie under isolation.  

The songs are well performed, and tight.  There are no wasted minutes, because this is an album of feeling, not an album of songs.  The music is designed to be listened to from one edge to the other.  The songs are spaced by intros and outros, letting the album flow from one place to another.

Schism, the big hit of this album is the closest thing that this album has to a popular song, but that is only because the rest of the album desires to be exclusive.  Schism is a great song.  It's one of the few songs that I heard on the radio and purely wanted to sing along to, because it just fucking speaks to people.  It's brilliantly written, and I can remember getting totally into it on trips and in cars all the time.

Parabola is an amazing fucking song too.  If you don't believe me, get this album, really get into it, sing along to Schism, and then wait for the moment when Parabola comes along.  You cannot miss it.  It's like a groundswell of immense sound after a quiet moment on the album.  Seriously, the album is worth it just for that moment.

The length of songs is actually one of the things that I think this album has going for it.  This band would be terrible at writing a three minute pop song, but given a canvas wide enough, they can create Last Supper like music.  Building complexity is only possible given the space to grow and change songs.  There is a bit of Dreamtheater in there, where the music is fantastically complex and requires multiple listens to get into, but of course, that is part of the appeal of the album.

It is a long fucking album though.  Clocking in at 79 minutes, it's something you really need to devote yourself to listening through.  Unless you get hooked early, you are going to be in for a long trudge.  It took me one or two listens before I was locked in and could really get into it, too.  The thing is, the mood that you have to be in is actually much more introspective (at least for me) than I thought it would be.

It's incredibly strange to me that these guys are known as a hard rock group, because all I hear is a fantastically emotional pleading group, looking for acceptance in a unforgiving and strange world.  Their purity in emotion is just hyper clear to me, and I love that they do this.  The musical contrast to this emotional tone creates a dissonance between the raw emotion and the rage that people feel under it.

And that is the space in which their fans lie.  When I think of the proto-tool fan, I think of the teenage kid who seems to desire to be a non-conformist (I was one of these as a teenager, so I can talk about them).  He thinks that the people around him are stupid and don't understand, and that they are against him.  He retreats into music and videogames because these are the places that have rules and make sense to him.  He finds peace in these things, and slowly understands that everyone else is going through the same thing, and finds his way out of his shell, or doesn't, retreating further, and not understanding why everyone doesn't understand him.  

So, Tool fans, the next time you are at a Tool concert, or buying Keenan's wine or whatever, please look around you, and recognize that there are people there with you, enjoying what you enjoy, and feeling your feelings.  Make it into a beautiful moment of collective catharsis, not a bunch of drunk assholes complaining about how no one understand them before they punch the guy in the same shirt as them right next to them in the face for something retarded.  Treat the women at the concert, not as objects, but as members of your tribe.  You'll find that you actually have a ton of friends.  And maybe, just maybe, if I hear you are doing better, I'll come to one of their concerts and hang out with you guys, and you can tell me why Tool is even better than I said here.

Look, I'm trying to keep writing, because this album is still on it's third play through, but seriously, this motherfucker is fucking 79 minutes long.  It would take a fucking book for me to write anything nearly as long as this.  It's one of those insane albums that I actually have less to say about than time it takes to listen to it.  This is my third time through, which means that I have spent a total of four hours listening to this album, and I could only start writing after two.

It's good.  Go get it. Listen to it (once), and if you like it (and I think you will), become a sane fan of Tool.  Thanks to Paul and Michael for getting me into them, just a little bit.  I know that I was hyper critical of your co-fans, but I think you guys are some of the sane ones.  Please make more fans like you, and we can go see the "amazing" shows that I hear about.  I just don't want sweaty assholes in my face the whole time for wearing the wrong color or liking the wrong album or something.

"Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."

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