1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 134

Lateralus, by Tool
Suggested by Matt Smith

Okay then… *exhales deeply*

Tool.

This one’s going to be tough.

Artistic. Cerebral. Progressive. Psychedelic. Intense.

Tool are serious business.

I’ve skipped around the periphery of Tool for some time. I’ve never been brave enough to actually listen to any. They are daunting to the musical layman, not for the faint of heart. I know a lot of my friends enjoy Tool, and will happily tell me how marvellous they are, but I don’t know anyone who’d stand and claim Tool are their favourite band. I don’t think they’re the sort of band that inspire such single-minded adoration. But who knows, maybe there are hordes of braying Tooligans out there, carving diminished fifths into their chests with a compass.

Instead of fans, Tool appear to have acolytes, who will wax lyrical on the band’s prowess without really touching on the subject of enjoyment. Tool aren’t to be enjoyed, at least not as I’d define the word. Tool are to be appreciated, to be examined and dissected, to be pondered, to be digested. To be studied. They have Things To Say, in ways that are beyond most mortal comprehension. The Toolish Acolytes will tell you, with the shining eyes of the zealot or the jazz buff, that the Tool Experience transcends mere music.

But if we may be so gauche, Let’s talk about the music.

Fun fact: the title track, Laterlus, includes the Fibonacci sequence. I’ll wait here while the C3s and C4s pop over to Google for a definition (as I did). The lyrics contain the phrase “spiral out” in reference to this mathematical pattern, and the song’s main theme features the successive time signatures of 9/8, 8/8 and 7/8, with the number 987 being the 16th in the sequence. Thematically, the song describes the human desire to explore, to expand for more knowledge and a deeper understanding… and if you picked any of this up by listening to it, you are an ACTUAL DEMON.

Another fun fact: the instrumental track Mantra is the slowed-down sound of the singer fondly squeezing his cat. What even IS Tool?

Tool provide exciting yet sludgy metal guitars over intricate drums, with constantly shifting time signatures and genre shifts. The lyrics are largely impenetrable and delivered with an unassuming vocal, the songs are bafflingly long and randomly droning, and the whole thing is an exercise in confusion. I’d love to say I’d enjoyed this – or better still, appreciated this – but in truth I found myself just as overawed as before I dove in.

This project gives me so little time to reflect and absorb what I’m hearing, that I find myself drawn to the surface of the things, to the shiny grip-you-hard-and-get-you-dancing immediacy of a more penetrable medium. I feel outmatched by Tool, and can only give this album a 5/10. I do so with the full knowledge that I’d get a lot more out of this, given a second listen and a copy of Tool For Dummies.

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