Publication: Pi: University of London Magazine
Date: May, 2001
Toolfan in London (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Toolfan in London (email@example.com)
page: 12 title: New Releases - Genre: Grindcore, Band: Tool author: Ben Schachtman If you peel back enough layers, you will find something redeeming. This could very well be Tool's mantra of excavational psychology, and it is true enough in London. If you dig through Chris Evans tyranny of powder-pop, and continue down through the layers of thoughtless garage and quasi-house, down past indie-rock self-adoration, you will find the minging core of the human psyche. Or, to put it less ostentatiously, there are more Tool fans than you'd except in London. Less likely the result of a nationalistic affection for British- borne bassist Justin Chancellor or nostalgia for semi-underground favorite Peach, Tool’s popularity rests firmly on the integrity and (perhaps more importantly) humour of Tool’s works. Although their initial outing was quickly shelved either next to political-rock-rap masters Rage Against the Machine or drunken-redneck metal ‘gods’ Pantera, many saw through the façade of buzzsaw guitar tones and Carey’s pyschopathic double bass drumming. Awarded the ridiculous titles of “grindcore” and “death metal” by a lazy U.S. music press, Tool did put up an impressive metallic front, but left hints of their loftier aspirations with the dreamy chorus of the opener “Sweat”, which was embarrassingly relegated to the Escape From L.A. Soundtrack. With the closer (yes, we are ignoring the “Gaping Lotus Experience”, but that’s our prerogative) Tool left the general impression that they would be back, if only to free themselves from the “grindcore” section in the Virgin Megastore. Undertow, an ethereal and original work, helped slowly extricate Tool from the “grindcore” bin (honestly though, who the fuck thought up ‘grindcore’? It either takes bollocks of steel or brains of concrete). Tool fans don’t need the album described to them, and for the uninitiated nothing would describe it aptly, suffice to say, anyone who was getting tired of Metallica’s odes to H.P. Lovecraft characters found a welcome rubber-hose up the psyche in this album. It should be added that the extendedly odd finale, “disgustipated”, found on track 69 (clever Yankees), is arguably the funniest thing ever put to CD. Of special note to the rock world: Adam Jones thought of drop-B tuning for the droning verse and brutally low chorus of “Prison Sex” long before Munky and Head even considered it. Also, Tool let the occasionally brilliant Henry Rollins flex his muscular spoken word presence on “Bottom”. Show me another “grindcore” band with spoken word poetry and I’ll swim the Thames for you. Tool took the “Undertow” album on tour with a genuinely inspired live-show (occasionally handing off Henry’s spoken word duties to Zack de la Rocha, who had likewise invited singer Maynard James Keenan to add his talents to “Know Your Enemy”). Aenima, the album a thousand DJs couldn’t pronounce, found Tool leaving the so called “nu-metal” (seriously, they must not pay the American music press, because we can’t imagine paying someone to invent ‘nu’-metal) with the furious ‘fuck-off’ of “Hooker with a Penis” thrown over their shoulder. With massive arrangements of what could arguably be called art-rock and even-more-indulgent interludes, Aenima was a contradiction. A massively talented work that dared you to enjoy it, understand it, or pronounce it. For those in the diminishing hard-rock fan base who could get their heads around Aenima, it was well worth the effort. Eventually critics, even the notoriously star-fucking Spin Magazine, came around and lavished considerably overdue praise of Tool, who all but disappeared into a avalanche of legal troubles and (how dare they) private lives and side projects. The patient fans put Aenima in heavy rotation and decided to spent the next five years deciphering it, while the more eager tripped over pranks and April fool’s jokes, believing that Floorpail (that’s right, April Fool) would be the next single, grieving when Tool died in a bus crash, and waiting around for four years to hear the supposedly twenty minute studio recording of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter.” Finally rewarded this Christmas, Tool eventually decided to briefly resurface to release “Salival”, a small but potent collection of odds and ends for the faithful to chew on until they came around to where they are now. [Note from Kabir - Nice of them mentioning TWO toolshed April Fools' gags] Now is the moment we’ve all waited for. Having triumphed their legal woes, dodged the bubonic breakup plague that swept the alternative rock scene, and apparently ten times wiser for the wear, Tool has prepared to drop “Lateralus” (no, it won’t be called Maynard Sings Pavoratti, The Mental Fuckwithage Project, or something in Sumarian, but then again if you thought Tool was going to release “Buzz’s Revenge” as the first single, you might still be looking for new releases in the “grindcore” bin) on the world. By a blessed twist of commercialistic fate, the U.K. will receive our dose of Tool a day before the States, and the appetites are more than whet. The first single, greedily grasped off file- sharing programs by fans who wouldn’t wait three more days for the official website to stream it online, gives us a taste of what is on the new orb from the Tool mothership. “Schism” starts with a Justin Chancellor noodle, and quickly gets picked up by the whole band, who latch onto it’s quirky as all get-out time signature until they can pry a face-crushing riff out of it. Then there is the obligatory but never the less effective breakdown, which finds Tool in another, equally quirky time signature and forces the listener to wait until the last thirty seconds for the violently propulsive and entertainingly cathartic ending, which builds so much momentum its impressive Tool managed to stop at all, much less on a sixpence. Now, less we be accused of praising only Chancellor, (though he went under praised for his work on Aenima, having stepped in half way through the writing) Tool’s guitar tour-de-force is executed by Adam Jones, who has fattened his guitar sound even more and tweaked his tones to keep Tool fans slightly unnerved and thoroughly addicted. Riff junkies will get their fixes right up front on “Lateralus”, but those who stay for the subtle and brooding guitar work will be genuinely rewarded. You won’t be humming these tunes, unless you can handle Arabic minor runs in odd tempos (if you can, you could make a killing busking, I guarantee it), but you will be sweating like a smack junkie for another listen shortly after hearing them. Singer Maynard has, in our humble opinion, come into his own on Lateralus. His outing with A Perfect Circle (no, that wasn’t Tool doing “Judith”) provided a lot of more emotive singing, but Tool has been moving in that direction even without Billy Howerdel's influence. Anyone who has heard their awe-inspiring live “Pushit” (which on its own Salival is worth buying for) could see a band becoming more and more emotionally as well as musically potent. And many would have our heads if we exempted Drummer Carey from our scathing praise. Truth be told, Carey is as ever masterful. Whereas fellow disciple of the polyrhythmic dojo Carter Beauford (whose amazing talent is venerable no matter what you think of the band, trust us) opted for four-on-the-floor simplicity as Dave Matthew’s Band rose to fame, Carey has taken the chance to push the envelope, playing with, and indeed outside, the very conceptions of modern drumming. (A good friend of ours at Pi offered the following comment: “He’s a prick, a fucking sod, an arse, he’s a fucking irritating bastard,” and after a long thoughtful pause, “I love that man, he’s my god.” We didn’t show him the demo tape, because we didn’t want him to quit drumming forever, but we can’t hide Carey’s amazing skills forever). Pi got our hands on this dub-of-a-dub-of-a-dub copy previously owed by an editor (who shall go unnamed, but his notoriously bad Snooker skills cost him this gem…that’s a hint if you know him) at Kerrang! – and we decided not to review it for you. Lateralus will be out very soon ladies and gentleman, and there are more than enough prick-tease pre-reviews of Lateralus for our tastes without adding another to the pyre. In addition, we are greatly concerned for our own reputation, lest we accidentally add something of the ridiculous character of “grindcore” to the music critic’s lexicon. Thusly, we offer this summation by the numbers. 1) Tool, as a band, are a fabulously talented and cohesive group who have made an international multimillion dollar industry out of thinking first and recording second, a bite to eat for the minds of would-be nu-metal rockers out there. 2) Despite this talent, its not how big Carey’s gong is (though it is huge), or what brand bass Justin plays (it is a custom Wal four string, in case you think we don’t know) or which pedal Adam is using to make that noise (our guesss, Digi-tech whammy pedal with some subtle wah) or where Maynard got that mask (from a college production of Phantom of the Opera) – it is what they do with it that matters, a second serving for the speed + volume = quality school of music (Pantera, we’re looking at you). 3) There really is a lot that you could learn, if you were to put aside anything else you believe and just listen to them. 4) Lateralus is the most challenging thing you will listen to for a long time, and it is very likely it will take a while to reach you, give it time, give it a change, don’t except Papa Roach (for those of you who think that they didn’t steal the “Last Resort” riff from Green Day’s “Brain Stew”, gratuitous bollocks to you) and you might stand a chance. Also, don’t trip by yourself in a dark room to this album, we had first-year try this with the “Schism” single alone, and now he speaks in tongues, Babylonian actually… But most importantly, always remember that when Tool has finally reached right across the cosmos and touched your psyche with a perfectly crafted magnum opus, when they’ve finally distilled for you the very essence of the pure emotion that all humans share and put it across to you irrefutably and with devastating power and finesse, when you are sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that Maynard James Keenan is exactly right about everything and would make an excellent Gubernatorial candidate for California, and you get your four hundred greenbacks and go to get the “Lateralus” artwork tattooed across your forehead, when you have come fully and happily into the church of Tool, remember: 5) They’re taking the piss. Having said that, they are still outstanding musicians and performers (and comedians too). There are plenty of people in Tool’s footsteps, and plenty of them are quite talented, we look to the Deftones for a clear example of Tool’s beneficial influence of the rock world. However, no one does it better than Tool, and Tool has never done it better than with “Lateralus”, which we’ll get our hands on one day before the poor sods in the colonies on May 14th.
Posted to t.d.n: 05/06/01 18:56:33