There is a marriage at my place tomorrow. So today is the day, in Indian tradition, when people come over and sing marriage songs. Headache inducing marriage songs. They’re sung in a good natured manner and all, but it really isn’t stuff that I can listen to without thinking, “Oh god! The singer is completely off. The Dholak player is playing a bar ahead of the rest of the group”. Like that. And I, stuck in the adjacent room need an antidote.
So I look at my latest musical haunts in my ‘My Music’ folder.
The Yellowjackets? Naah, too jazzy.
Victor Wooten? Not loud enough.
Tool? Yes, TOOL!!! Loud, abrasive and SPOT on, quite the antidote to wedding singers. And let me tell you, the first 10 minutes or so were like a brilliant Antacid.
Their latest album gets an absolutely rocking start with ‘Vicarious’. It’s a great song, with Porcupine Tree-esque Zeitgeisty lyrics. The great stuff continues with ‘Jambi’, which has Maynard James Keenan doing an Eddie Vedder impression of the highest order. Interesting Talk Box guitar solo too. This song is actually one of the very few songs on this album which have one member/instrument carrying the sound.
As far as individual member’s performances are concerned, they are certainly subtly changed in their roles compared to the last album. This album is less guitar and drum focussed than Lateralus, and hence more, shall we say, ‘democratic’ in it’s sound. The downside is that Danny Carey’s tribal drum stylings are sorely missed. But Adam Jones’ taking a step back has been brilliantly handled by bassist Justin Chancellor. He has a hyper-modern bass tone. He allows the steel and string-noise laden frequencies to color his sound. It’s a distinct tone, but it’s not something that I prefer personally. But I guess it works for Tool. Adam Jones’ performance is, sadly, not as towering as it was on Lateralus. 10,000 Days will always be compared with Lateralus, and will always have a hard act to follow. Like Porcupine Tree‘s The Incident, like Metallica‘s Load and like Dream Theater‘s Awake, the follow up to the masterpiece is not as good.
If I were to point out an element that is missing from 10,000 Days, it’s got to be the hooks. Sure, the music is brilliantly packaged, conceptualised etc. etc., but except on certain extremely trippy songs (like ‘The Pot’ and ‘Vicarious’), the hooks are missing. Speaking of ‘The Pot’, that song has to have one of the sexiest beginnings of any song in this century. A fantastic song beginning to end. And a YAY to a totally spazzed out bass solo midway. So as you can see by now, it’s turning out to be a hit-and-miss affair by Tool standards. Mind you, if any other band were to come out with something like this, it would be way above anyone’s expectations. But sadly for 10,000 Days, this is Tool.
There is also the fact that the longest song here (‘Rosetta Stoned’) is also the most mediocre track. It’s too long, not interesting enough, and not full enough with M J Keenan’s lyrics to truly save it from sludgy forgettableness. Too many different riffs. Too much noise. Not enough music. The other weakness with 10,000 Days is exactly the same as Lateralus. It’s too long to be listened to in one sitting. And this is coming from someone who used to worship that most compact and easily listenable of bands, Dream Theater. It’s not the length per se, but the distortion that gets to me. But that could just be me.
Anyway, in the final totting up, its inevitable that this will be compared with Lateralus, and as expected (sadly), it falls short. Lateralus was a flawed classic, this is flawed, but just short of a classic. Nevertheless, by all objective accounts, this sounds right.
– El Bajista
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