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100 Albums: "Lateralus" by Tool

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Tool
Title: Lateralus
Released: 2001
Genre: halfway between prog-rock and art-metal

The poster of this video put the wrong album cover on it.

My gateway to Tool was A Perfect Circle, which featured singer Maynard James Keenan doing more radio-friendly songs with his friend Billy Howerdell. Tool albums pre-APC tend to be didactic and philosophical, but starting with Lateralus, Tool's driving math rock began to feel a bit more introspective and personal. The lead single Schism is about trying to heal a damaged relationship. "I know the pieces fit, 'cause I watched them tumble down." The Patient is about wanting to help others without really understanding why. "If there were no desire to heal the damaged and broken met along this tedious path I've chosen here, I certainly would have walked away by now. And I still may." Disposition is a quiet song whose lyrics in their entirety are "Mention this to me. Mention something, mention anything. Mention this to me. Watch the weather change."

My favorite song is the title track, a nine-and-a-half-minute opus about embracing randomness and seeking out surprises, all of it keyed to the Fibonacci sequence. The lyrical syllables, in fact, follow that sequence pattern through the verse (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8...) "Black / And / White are / All I see / In my infancy / Red and yellow then came to be..." It's all very cool and very nerdy at once. The album peters out a bit at the end. It's almost 80 minutes long, so once you get to the hefty instrumental Triad my attention is pretty spent. Tool wants you to work for your audio enjoyment, it seems. Which is fine. It's important to also have anti-pop in your life.

Further Listening: The albums on either side of this--Ænema and 10,000 Days--are both quite good, and if not for the whole one-album-per-artist rule then 10,000 Days would definitely be on this list, if for no other reason than it contains my favorite Tool song, the batshit crazy Rosetta Stoned, which is definitely worth eleven minutes and change of your time. Ænema is in the more didactic camp of Tool albums, but the title track is an excellent ode to Bill Hicks, and it's got 46 & 2, which is built around a phenomenal rock riff.

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