– by David Schatanoff, Jr.
So the number eight album on the Best of 2006 countdown comes from one of my favorite bands: TOOL. With all the great jazz, classical and rock (and/or roll) offerings from this last year, it was still heads and shoulders above my personal list of top ten albums of ’06. So why number eight? Well, different strokes for different folks and all that… but this album is “what Willis was talkin’ bout“.
Tool has been around for sixteen years and has amassed a fiercely loyal and devoted fan base. I stood in line at the Tower Records on Sunset Blvd for the last Tool album, Lateralus. Much to my dismay (and several other of my Tool Army comrades) we were standing in line for the Weezer in-store performance… We did get to meet Rivers Cuomo but were then allowed to pass the line of screaming fifteen-year-olds to purchase something with a little more meat on it’s bones. This time around, I bypassed the whole “waiting in line at midnight” thing and picked up the album 10,000 Days at the local Best Buy. No screaming Weezer fans, no dragging my ass out of bed for work the next morning; just me, my wallet and my 10,000 Days CD.
Now as most fans know, the music that Tool creates is pretty heavy. I used the word “meat” earlier and meaty is dead on when describing their music. It takes a couple of sittings to fully digest the music on 10,000 Days; and normally, that would be a turn off. But Tool has a way of making things sonically interesting first, and then reels you back for the lyrics. If you notice the lyrics first, you listen again and again to understand what Maynard James Keenan has cooked up for your intellectual appetite; then return to figure out exactly what Danny Carey (drums), Justin Chancellor (bass) and Adam Jones (guitar) have presented sonically. All of this keeping your head moving or your body pulsing.
Alternating 5/4 and 10/8 patterns mixed with 3/4 and 4/4 transitions instantly make the music complex to casual listeners. I don’t know who coined the phrase “Math-Rock”, but I’m sure it was around the time of Yngwie Malmsteen or Dream Theater. And while extreme “Math-Rock” takes on time signatures much more complex than the ones Tool tunes exists in, they have a knack for taking our Buddy Holly, 4/4, lives and making simple, odd time signatures, sound complex. It’s really how the ensemble works together that makes the music dense and multi-layered. It all nicely comes together in the first track on the album – “Vicarious”. Adam and Justin kick things off with the hinting of an incantation, which is revisited in the middle section of the tune. Maynard’s verse phrasing is mesmerizing and the vocals are recorded, futz’d and mixed to perfection. Listen to how drummer Danny Carey plays off of leading patterns from Adam and then Justin in sections of this one. I love the unison sextuplet riff ending; well rehersed and a great way to start off the album.
Tool – Vicarious
Track two on the album keeps things going where the first track ends. There are many notes to be played on this one and it’s a wonder how Tool stays in shape musically to perform their catalog of songs live. Not only are they physically challenging but mentally exhausting to say the least. I’ll let this track speak for itself
Tool – Jambi
My favorite track on the album is titled “The Pot”. It’s the first track from Tool to reach number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Track charts, and with good reason. The bass line is driving and catchy; moving from an octave riff to the busy style I love hearing from Justin. If there ever was a song that enjoyed the key of ‘D’, it’s this one. When Justin gets going, Adam reiterates the octave riff and then gets going himself. Danny is rock solid as always on this track. He’s one of the few drummers that never fell out of love with the Simmons Drum sound and has integrated them into his acoustic drum kit. Maynard moves into his head voice for the intro and lets it rip for the rest of the song. The lyrics poke the side of hypocrisy (THE POT calling the kettle black) and, I can only picture an authoritative power puffing away on a joint. Keep an eye out for the video for this tune that is rumored to have been shot at the end of ’06. In the meantime, enjoy the track!
Tool – The Pot
The selections here represent the more sonically agressive tracks on the album. Tool fans and casual listeners alike will enjoy the other tracks for, if nothing else, the musicianship. But those familiar with the last two albums will recognize that 10,000 Days is a culmination of the best of those albums with an identity of its own. For those of you “under the influence“, put the disc in your computer or XBOX 360 and turn on the visualizer and enjoy the track “Viginti Tres”. Trippy…
But the album, like the band, represents the best of, and the balance of: technology and organics, numbers and soul, western and eastern sounds; all while staying true to personal convictions and ideals that have grown together to form this “Number Eight” on the Best of 2006 Countdown.
10,000 Days marks Tool’s 5th major release – Opiate (1992), Undertow (1993), AEnima (1996), and Lateralus (2001) are the bands other offerings. Tool is currently on tour in Australia promoting 10,000 Days.
For more information on Tool, please visit their website: www.toolband.com.