Today I'm thinkin' about everyone's favorite weirdo math-metal quartet, the band whose fifth album is just one month away (FINALLY!), the Stanley Kubrick of rock n' roll, Tool!
I compare them to Kubrick because like Stanley, Tool are uncompromising in their artisitic vision, relentlessly perfectionistic, and their output is not easily digestible, yet it's still commercially successful. You need to put in some work to enjoy a Tool album; it's not something you can listen to passively. Between the unconventional time signatures, the multi-layered instrumentation, the radio-defying running times, and the hooks that only sink in after several listens, a Tool record gets infinitely better with familiarity. When I think of Tool I think of Maynard's snaking, undulating melodies, Adam's agile guitar riffs that fit together like puzzle pieces with Justin's pulsing bass lines, and Danny's impossibly complex drum patterns that sound like he has at least two extra limbs. Tool is unlike any other band out there; the songs conjure vivid imagery and develop organically, taking as long as they need to get where they're going.
But which Tool songs are at the top of the pile? Let's take a look at the Top Ten Tool Tunes.....
**Note: I'm a music nerd so some of this will deal with the songs' compositional theory.**
The title track from their third album, the wildly complex "Lateralus" features shifting time signatures (5/8 in the verse, 9/8 to 8/8 to 7/8 in the chorus) and a vocal rhythm inspired by the Fibonacci sequence. The subject matter is about growing and pushing one's boundaries to achieve something greater than themselves, again tying into the Fibonacci theme ("Ride the spiral to the end/And may just go where no one's been"). The verse/chorus/verse/chorus structure then gives way to a climactic third act that employs a 4-over-3 polyrhythm, with the vocals in 4 and everything else in 3. This is one of Tool's many epic tunes that dazzles musically but also carries a positive message.
The second song on 10,000 Days borrows its strange title from Pee Wee's Playhouse (specifically the show's genie character), which Danny Carey said sprung to mind when he heard Justin Chancellor's bass line. "Jambi" is mostly in 9/8, giving the song a circular pulse, and features some of Adam Jones' most impressive syncopated rhythm guitar work. Lyrically the song seems to deal with the meaninglessness of wealth and power without being able to share it with one's soul mate, as it were - "If I could I'd wish it all away/If I thought tomorrow would take you away." Then the song's conclusion mentions two uniting as one, a theme that recurs later in the album and in its stereoscopic artwork. It's probably as close to a love song as the band has ever written.