Tool: Lateralus

Eden Miller



Label: Volcano
US Release Date: 2001-05-15

Tool are the ultimate rock band. They sound cool enough for causal fans while still remaining smart enough for critics. They mix testosterone-driven heaviness with sensitivity, to appeal to all tastes. They make videos that are weird enough to scare your parents. They package their CDs in fascinating ways. And as befits their status, they had the customary label struggles (what band doesn't?) before releasing the huge Lateralus, their first album since 1996. Like all ultimate rock bands, Tool make their fans feel like they're part of some select group (although since Lateralus debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, that's obviously not true). No matter what, Tool are your personal secret.

Lateralus is exactly what you'd expect from Tool, which is exactly what you want: meditatively dark. Lead singer Maynard James Keenan sings and screams over the driving guitars of Adam Jones, the gloomy bass of Justin Chancellor, and the pounding drums of Danny Carey. There is nothing revolutionary about Tool's sound, but that doesn't matter. Tool are good at what they do, and they know it.

At nearly 80 minutes long, Lateralus asks a lot of its listeners. Songs quite often clock in at over seven minutes (and sometimes, they're closer to the nine-minute mark). Strangely, though, it works for the band as the songs build and collapse with a great rhythm. The gorgeous companions "Parabol" and "Parabola" play off each other like mirror images. Together, the two songs create a fascinating effect that could nearly go on forever. While still rooted in their traditional penchant for abnormality -- such as on "Ticks and Leeches", with lines like "Workin' up under my patience like a little tick. Fat little parasite. Suck me dry" -- Tool do seek out higher answers. While name-checking the return of Saturn is nothing new (musicians from No Doubt to Goldie have also dealt with this event), "The Grudge" does reveal a certain amount of reflection as Keenan sings "Clutch it like a cornerstone. Otherwise it all comes down. Justify denials and grip it to the lonesome end". Maybe they aren't the deepest lyrics ever written, but at least Tool are looking for more than just what is on the surface.

While Tool are probably not the most progressive nor the most innovative musicians out there, who cares? Tool make music that people like, while they still maintain their own creative freedom. Lateralus doesn't make things easy for fans, old or new, but it was embraced anyway. Tool are doing something right. You probably already like Tool, or at least you should. They're one of the few true rock bands left, and we all need to be thankful for that.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.