Thursday, May 04, 2006

10,000 Days -- Review

I'm a major Tool . . . fan. Ok, I may be a major tool as well, but that's an aside. I've been listening to the new Tool album, 10,000 Days, for about a week now. It's absolutely bad-ass, and I'm going to share a review of my thoughts on the CD. It'll give me a break from recording the podcast of my book.


Tool only releases an album about every 5 years these days, and in the 14 years since they first started releasing albums, they've only let loose 1 EP and 4 full-length CD's upon the world. I don't know if they intend to take that long between recordings or if it's an accident stemming from their legal troubles after Aenima was released, but the fact is when a Tool CD comes out it's an event. I discovered Tool after Undertow, when the song Sober was on Beavis & Butt-Head. I was drawn by their rhythmic intensity and their craftsmanship. Everything they did seemed to have had a great deal of thought put into it. Most Rush fans, like myself, consider Tool to be their heirs in prog-rock. They're a darker band, but they're also very intellectually satisfying. Spend some time with a Tool song and its (never printed on the case) lyrics, and you can come up with multiple interpretations of what's going on.

Aenima came out in 1996 and I heard the title track on the radio I think once or twice before I ran right out and bought it. With Justin Chancellor on bass the new band seemed to have an even greater, and darker intensity. Between the dark visions of Los Angeles going underwater and the (late) Bill Hicks clips on the CD, there was a lot to digest. Bass-driven songs like 46 & 2 were also a treat for people like me.

Finally there was the Long Gap. After Aenima was released it stayed in my CD player on and off for months. I found and followed the agonizing process of the band and their legal hassles, right up until the new album started to make itself known. When I finally got the package in my hands, predictably weird cover art and all, I put the circular sawblade of the CD into my player and . . . got irritated. After some really rocking starts, the music seemed to drift off and get lost. Though it was over 70 minutes long, Lateralus seemed on initial listen to be a very understated album, and the balls-to-the-wall Tool of "Hooker with a Penis" seemed to be gone. There weren't even any F-bombs on the CD.

But for some reason I left Lateralus in my CD player during a long trip, and by the time I was done with that vacation I had completely absorbed the recording.

There was a long period where I liked to play the game Unreal with Lateralus in the player. The songs on the CD were a lot like the atmosphere of the game.

1,800 days, Give or Take

The completely unique album art of Tool is always a major part of the experience. This time they've included stereoscopic lenses and a series of stereo pictures, some of them simply drop-dead stunning, to go with the music. As usual there is a strange preoccupation with body parts and skulls, and medical-looking apparatus. And I don't get what that squirrel-thing on Maynard's head is -- maybe that's his hair.

So, the songs:


The first thing you notice is Tool's trademark bass/guitar harmony. I'm a bass player myself and I've learned a lot of their songs. Tool likes the key of D, frankly. They seem to be good in it, and it has made their career. So Vicarious is in D, and the figure sounds a lot like 46 & 2, and when I sat down to learn to play it (as I always do with music I really like) it felt like playing 46 & 2 as well. Justin Chancellor plays with a pick, which I don't, so the sound he gets is sharper than what I would. And I think he's still using a Wal bass. It growls nice and dark.

As I was listening it the first line that really stuck out of the lyrics was "I need to watch things die . . . from a good safe distance." I had to laugh. I don't usually zero in on lyrics for the first three or four times I listen to a song. There's so much going on that I like to chew it down slowly. Maynard almost whispers the vocals on this song, while he overdubs extremely subtle harmonies over the top, sometimes extremely high ones. The layering is just fantastic. Adam Jones provides creepy guitar solos (and if you look at him I think he looks just generally unsettling anyway -- and he's fricking huge. I think he's part bear or something). And Danny Carey is the bomb on drums.


This one isn't my favorite. I like the figure it's built on, and it moves along nicely, and there's some very original sounding stuff with the bass and congas. Adam Jones seems to play the same note through most of the song, with different rhythmic inflection. I'm not sure what it's about yet. "I wish it all away." That's what I'm getting out of this song. Like all Tool, I will let it grow upon me.

Wings for Marie (pt 1)

This song starts very slow, and is another almost-whispered song. Builds up. "Didn't have a life," he repeats over and over again. Then "It's time for us to let you go." Segues into the next track almost seamlessly.

10,000 Days (Wings part 2)

Very similar to Wings for Marie in melodic construction, this is a long, very long build, up to a highly emotional climax. When I first heard it in my car, there was a thunderstorm happening outside and I thought the thunder on the track was real. It was quite an enjoyable experience to realize that it was actually part of the recording -- it sounded like it was bursting through the roof of my car for a bit.

The song is biographical in nature -- I learned later that Maynard's mother spent 27 years (about 10,000 days) bound to a wheelchair. These two songs together make up an 18-minute epic on the subject.

People who are not happy with the Tool CD having only 5 songs (which isn't true anyway) are maybe not familiar with the days of Yes when you got a 3-song album with 18 minutes for track 1, and 9 and 10 for tracks 2 and 3. This recording could be side A of an old-style LP. It's not my favorite, again, but it's growing on me. I'm listening to it now and I don't want to switch away to the next song. "10,000 days in the fire is walking out, you're going home."

The Pot

I don't think he means you're High on the Pot. Maybe. But the lyric actually says "You pissed all over my black kettle. You must have been high." Anyway, the rhythm for this one FUCKING JAMS. I can't get over it. It's two measures of 6 with a measure of 4 as it leads up to the downbeat. I've almost learned to play it, except for the intro which is completely befuddling me at the moment. And it just doesn't quit. I love songs in 6 anyway. You can read it like a hyperactive waltz, or you can turn it into two triplets and get hardcore with the accents like it's a heavy march. "Got a lemon juice up in your eye." Love it!

Lipan Conjuring

OK. This may be filler, but again we just listened to an 18-minute biography topped off by almost seven minutes of The Pot. It's all right with me. Indian chanting and percussion fits right in with what Tool does. It's kind of like intermission between the first and second parts of the album. And now that I think of it, they've actually put a song in called Intermission before.

Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)

This is the intro to Rosetta Stoned. Creepy feedback guitar, and voices in the background. Again I hear people complaining about this, but this is so Pink Floyd. Who doesn't get it?

Rosetta Stoned

Heavily distorted vocals, and double-tracked, panic-stricken relation of what sounds like an alien abduction episode, or a drug trip gone very bad. In any case, it's 11 minutes of goodness. It's a respectable piece of Tool music, heavily layered, textured with lots of different pieces. "You are the chosen one. The one who will deliver the message . . . me, the chosen one, they chose me, and I didn't graduate from fuckin' high school." Tool is a lot of fun with this because they're just regular guys. You get a sense that they will happily tear themselves down as well as anyone else who gets too full of themselves. "'Cause this shit never happens to me," he says. The more I listen to this song the more layers it uncovers.


This reminds me a lot of "Disposition" from Lateralus, though it goes on for longer. Danny Carey gets to use funky percussion, Justin Chancellor plays harmonics on the bass, and weird sound effects play in the background while Maynard whispers his lyrics. The last three songs on Lateralus really grew on me after awhile, and I'm sure this will as well. It leads into the next track texturally as well. These guys probably didn't study symphonic composition in art school, but they sure know how to do it.

Right in Two

Thematically I'm reminded of the "Lateralus" track from the eponymous CD -- it's a commentary. It's a slower track, again, but it's a whole song, complete and as brilliantly worked-out as any of the others. Nine minutes, almost. I have not had these later tracks grow on me as much, but they are enjoyable to listen to. It's just that I'm a crack addict for the first five tracks or so.

Viginti Tres

This is a sound effects track, which as far as I know is the traditional way in which one ends a Tool album -- with something weird and often disturbing. I personaly can't stand listening to Lateralus' "Faaip De Oiad," but that's just because it's irritating on the ears. This track is a lot quieter and builds up with synthesized breathing and wind sounds very slowly until at about 3:24 an extremely disturbing-sounding voice comes on and says something which just makes my hair stand on end. Then it fades out and away again. Five minutes total of this weirdness.

Ok. Enough. I love the hell out of Tool, and this CD will go alongside my other treasures from this band.

One more hint for the guys, if for some inexplicable reason they happen across this site: we'd all love a live CD from you guys sometime. Not like a half-CD. I mean a full, 2-hour extravaganza. And please re-release Salival while you're at it.


Post a Comment

<< Home