Tool’s 10,000 Days: The Proper Review

The short and sweet:

A Perfect Circle + the best and worst of Tool’s 1st four albums = 10,000 Days.

Before I get to the details, I want to get one thing out of the way right now: Tool are trying their damnedest to win another “Best Pacakaging” Grammy. The lenticular case of 1996’s Aenima won them one, and I thought that Lateralus deserved one, too. But this… this is just too much. The coolness of the 3D imaging is completely overridden by the freakish ugliness of the package itself. Also, I’m lead to wonder how many people would have figured out the gimmick if it weren’t for the notes in the packaging. I did. But many more Tool fans are complete morons. (Ironic, I think.)

But anyway, on to the music.

“Vicarious” is still pretty ho-hum to me. “Jambi” is a fantastic song minus one thing: the damn TalkBox effect. I hate the TalkBox. Everything it’s used on automatically sounds like Bon Jovi. Especially when it’s pushed out front in the mix. It’s a good thing the bassline during that solo is a million times better than the guitar line. Both halves of “Wings for Marie” are very good, possibly some of the best work Tool has ever done. It’s a bit like “Parabol/a” from Lateralus, or perhaps a more thoughtful version of “Third Eye”. But it’s very good. The effects on “The Pot” are quite unusual, although the lyric is very much akin to “Hooker with a Penis”. “Rosetta Stoned” and “Right in Two” are both good ol’ Tool songs.

The thing that irritates me about this album (aside from the production, which I’ll get to) is that the motion that Tool usually has is almost nonexistant in some places. They are masters of dynamics, yet most of it seems either slow and open or tight and rockin’. The only place where they’re really at the top of their form, artistically, is “Wings”. The segue tracks, like those on Aenima, are ultimately filler. One last word on the actual tracks: “Viginti Tres” is unusual. The vocal sounds like a dream I had once. A very disturbing one. But that’s a personal aside.

Production-wise, this album sounds like A Perfect Circle made a Tool album. Where Lateralus was open and atmospheric, 10,000 Days is claustrophobic and… pristine. The mix itself sounds similar to Undertow, but with more clarity. Justin Chancellor’s bass tone is ridiculously good. The biggest thing that annoys me, overall, is the compression of the record. The dynamics are crushed too much to give them any real impact. You’re not going to get the volume swell from “Parabol/a” here, nor the crushing heaviness after the bridge of “Ticks and Leeches”.

I’ve always been a fan of Tool’s arty-er persuits, but it seems to me that they’re making Tool’s Greatest Hits now. There’s some good moments on this album–great even. But it’s so bogged down with its own pretention that it’s a little irritating. I’ve listened to it probably half a dozen (or more) times, and I will say this: it takes some getting used to. It’s not because it’s dense, a la Lateralus, or because it’s overtly emotional, like Undertow, no, there’s a quality to this album that I can’t describe, and I think it’s just because I’ve never encountered an album like this before… but I’ve heard a few that are similar.

Very similar.

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