By 2000, Tool were on the precipice of being one the biggest arena rock bands out there. All they had to do was release their highly anticipated new record, “Lateralus.” During the 90’s the band had steadily risen in the ranks of the metal/ rock world on the heels of career making albums ``Undertow,” and 96’s “ÆNIMA.” Tracks like “Sober,” with its ominous opening struck a chord in the early 90’s, with continued momentum occurring around the release and touring cycle of “ÆNIMA.”
By the time they got to ÆNIMA” song progression had gone farther than it had previously. During this period the band begins experimenting more frequently with song lengths, such as the epic “Third Eye” or the cerebral journey of “Pushit.” As one of the lengthier, but equally stand out songs of their entire career, “Pushit” serves as not only an excellent leap forward into more trippy landscapes, but also as a clear indicator as to where the band was heading next. In my opinion, the journey of this song is the tipping point for brilliance. From where I’m standing you can clearly see that not only were they pleased with the road this took them on, but that they were eager to go further with subsequent releases.
That album, more than anything that came after, cemented the foursome, which by this point now included Justin Chancellor from Peach, joining Danny Carey, Adam Jones and Maynard James Keenan. Together they would embark on a big fall tour, which occurred after the bands Ozzfest run, filling mid sized arenas for the first time as the crowd, just as rabid as they are now, started the trend of notorious overthinking Tool fans.
By 2001, the recording process for the forthcoming “Lateralus,” had already been mostly completed, with the band and Chancellor recording together for the first time since Chancellor joined the team. One of the best things about this record is its sonic sphere of elements and how they create an ever evolving, changing sound . Segments are angry and raw, sure, but moments like the finale of “The Patient,” with its all encompassing effect as Keenan’s voice blends in with the atmosphere built by Jones on guitar, Carey on drums and Chancellor on bass. Throughout the song the chimes and cymbals from Carey’s drums are whistling in the background, and you hear Keenan’s vocals echoing distantly in the background until you hear a breath and the words are more intelligible.
I remember the first day it came out, going to buy it first thing at i think nine or ten in the morning. The booklet and coer art is still one of the better designed and executed around, but it was even more ahead of its time than it is now. As you listened to the album more and more, the imagery of the album began to not only coincide with the music, but also make it clearer in terms of the spiritual element casually lingering around some of the songs. Tracks like the two piece “Parabol(a)” fit into this idea perfectly.The piece builds up gradually, with MJK’s delicate whisper hovering right ier the underground tension so palpable as the song morphs into the heavy arena rock territory the band had now begun easily filling up.
Yet, there are songs like opener ”The Grudge” filled with resentments, and punishingly steady drum beats that set the course for the entire rest of the album. It’s nearly nine minutes long, and while not quite as lengthy as some of the tracks that came before, it still does more than enough to get the blood flowing. The vocals are nestled in sections, quietly at first, but as the song and it’s shared intensity with the vocals join together, you get the full scope the band was going for.
The ninth track on the album, which also happens to be the title track, “Lateralus,” begins with a nice but slow guitar part. Before long though, the drums and Justin Chancellor’s bass come thumping in and the song really takes off. The song is probably among the best the band has ever written, and it’s also one of the most popular. Again the lyrics here speak to a certain otherworldly positivity that wasn’t really embraced on previous albums. It’s a song about “Overthinking and overanalyzing” and about “separating the body from the mind.” Pretty progressive stuff happening if you ask me. For many of the shows I witnessed, this was the closer, and it’s perfect. The song makes you want to go into the dark willingly, and tackle whatever obstacles may face you. It’s about the pain we suffer, and the love we give, and how without one we can’t possess the other. It’s an overwhelmingly thought-provoking song, and with this concluding a concert you truly feel like you can go out into the world and be victorious over anything you need to conquer.
But also, it’s described as the opening of a LSD trip, where bright colors slowly make themselves known. Now, we talked about the importance of Justin Chancellor earlier, but this is the song where he easily shines the most. Now, one of the most interesting things about this song is the time signatures. I’m no musician, but I think most hardcore music fans can recognize the brilliance. The weirdest thing about this song however, is how the signatures, and the lyrics were both thought of separately and without mutual knowledge from the two key participants. In an interview Keenan goes on to explain while he was writing the theme of spiral’s turning in on themselves stuck out and brought a clear focus not only to the song, but the band’s feelings at the time. Here’s where it gets really intriguing though. The original name of the song was 9-8-7, for the weird time signatures, but then the band realized that 987 was the 16th number in the Fibonacci sequence, which also shares interests with the “ Golden Spiral.” I hope that doesn’t confuse you. In other words, there are lyrical and musical reasons why this is the most important, and strongest Tool Song. The positivity of the song is worth noting. It’s imploring us to live every day to the fullest, and maybe, to always try to expand your knowledge, one way or another. Ride the spiral, to the end.
This tour lasted for about two years, and then a darkness crept in while the band quietly rested. By 2006 it was time for forward progress. A few months earlier, the title had been announced, with many wondering what the meaning was, but also what the references were in the album track titles. As a huge fan i had no idea, but as the roll out began and the record was released, it became clear. Keenans mom had passed away from something that robbed her of ten thousand days, and the “Wings” tracks were all about her memory, in a way I suppose. The song is beautifully sung and written by Keenan and the rest of the band, but it's obviously MJK’s song to showcase his respect and love for his late mother.
To me it’s gorgeous because it's so honest, he doesn't sugar coat this pain and his myriad feelings,, which is part of why it was so difficult to be played live. It's too personal, and a Tool crowd hasn;t quite caught up to the maturity of the band we venture to see time and time again.
You also have tracks like “Lost Keys” and “Rosetta Stoned.” Beyond the thumoung power of “Jambi,” there’s no better track on this record. towards the end of the song though, As the second half of the track glides epically to conclusion, Kerman’s voice erupts over the ambient Egyptian style grooves with the line “Overwhelmed as one would be placed in my position, such a heavy burden now to be the one. Born to bear and read to all the details of our ending, write it for the whole wide world to see. But I forget my pen, Shit the bed again, typical.” I've probably heard that song a thousand time and that part still hits me like a sack of bricks. It’s just so well done, and orchestrated. Beyond that, the mixing by "Evil Joe Barresi” makes the song it's entire world of chaos. It;s a good record still, fifteen years on, but it's nestled in between two behemoths, so there’s a lot of shade.
So before we start the final portion of our reading time together let me just say, Wow, so many things happen in thirteen years. When “!0,000 Days” came out, i was single, going through maybe the worst year of my life, up to that point…. But yeah by 2019 i had fallen in love, got married, gotten a degree, starting writing and making money off of it, lost my last grandparents, got divorced, fell in love again, not to mention countless other experiences I’ll never forget. It's a long damn time and shortly after the release of “Fear inoculum,” I got married again. All of this is to say, it was mostly worth the wait, and in some cases made the band bigger than ever with the big push from Spotify and many other outlets.
So imagine how much a band’s sound can alter itself in that time. It’s a significant album not just because of its brilliance, but also because of just how worth the wait it seemed to be. Keenan’s lyrics, especially in more somber themed tracks like “Invincible,” are poignant and well phrased.
With tracks like “Pneuma” the band and Keenan again allow the music to be more welcoming and nurturing during tracks. The days of angst are… mostly over, but for a song like “Pneuma” this kind of gentleness really pays off when you start thinking about the lyrics. It does have a social consciousness attached to it, but it fits the song well, which makes it more powerful in turn with just being a well written epic song.
Those types of songs are all over these tracks. Keenan, for all his snarkiness, truly is one of the best vocalists and lyricists in rock today. The band is so far from where they began, both musically and I imagine in maturity, that it's refreshing to see a heavy rock band embrace elements that aren't necessarily thought of in the same breath as this type of sound.
There’s regret in the record, feeling like you’re now in a business model you can’t keep up with, the industry has changed. They’re older now too, with other responsibilities. But the record itself is a perfect symbol of where they’ve been and whatever they’ve become. But then, you get a song like “7empest,” which shouldn’t work,but its length and aggression fill teh final moments of yeh record with an urgency not that intense since maybe “Hooker with a Penis” or especially “Ticks & Leeches.”
Except here, there’s no screaming, but then again there’s not a single scream in the entire record. It’s an incredible song, ending one of the most powerfully heavy records in a long time, and should be revered as such. This track, which seemed aimed at a certain non-president small hand man, fits the aggression and frustration te world would face just the next year when we found out how fast the world could stop. The sing was heavily mentioned in early interviews and reviews, so expectations were high, but in my opinion, they were met, its a masterfully complex song.
Much of the album you’ll be focused on Keenan’s trademark cryptic lyrics, but on “Fear Inoculum” you find that record pushes the work of Adam Jones and Danny Carey to the forefront. The drums and guitars are devastating, heavy, perfectly synced up and working of the strengths of the other members. This is the record that belongs not to the vocals, but the wonder and thickness elevating the lyrical content. Tool is a household name in the world of rock music, and at long last they’ve delivered a record worth the wait.
Even tracks like the devastating, calculated “Descending” revolve more around the trio of Chancellor, Carey and Jones then they do Keenan, who’s well known for writing lyrics quickly after music is completed. It makes sense that it would feature more sections to breathe with instrumentation, seeing where thirteen years got them often to near perfectly mixed and produced effect, it really is a masterpiece, and a record that is more often interesting and thought provoking than most of the rock out there today.
As an album that many thought would never come, much like the sixth Game of Thrones book, or Half Life 3, it's refreshing to see something get released that we thought would never come. Even better than it was so well executed as an album and an insanely cool album package. As a band, Tool has seen and done everything you can do as a successful unit, and over the course of a three decade career, the band has transcended what they once were, replacing it with massive layers of music, swaths of heartfelt thought provoking lyrics, and if you're a concert fan, more video screens and lasers than you could ever imagine.
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For many of us, whether we lived and aged up during the 80’s, there’s plenty of reasons to forget some of the “artistic” choices that permeated the decade with bad hair, poorly thought out clothing choices, and perhaps most importantly when it comes to our topic of the day, videos that make little to no sense. This is where we get to the often maligned and mocked track “Total Eclipse of the Heart,”by the incomparable Bonnie Tyler.
Because of the time period, of course the video opens up with a shot of a mansion where apparently all the lights are out because this cheap ass school can’t keep up with their electricity bills. You see, this is before the time of school shootings, when school administrators were more concerned with literal light than they were deaths. Alas, i digress, but this place is big, dark ,and at the moment the video opens, mostly empty,
Now because they can’t pay their bills, the main room where this catastrophe happens is nearly only candles. Just candles all over the damn place. What’s with all these rich people not being able to pay their bills? Meanwhile, Bonnie Tyler is standing up against a window and wind is swaying through the night. Then there’s a dove just flying through a door for some reason? I don’t know. Maybe the dove came to say “ This video is gonna suck,” but he couldn’t find anyone because its so dark, so he just flew around trying to warn everyone of the impending doom. He’s literally the Paul Revere of this video trying to warn us,
Then Tyler is walking through all these hallways and she sees all the strapping young boys in school uniforms. They’re all giving her vacant, angry eyes, but why? Trust me, the answers are coming and they will shock you. But for real, they probably won’t shock you (No way you can get shocked in a house with no electricity) but when you realize what’s happening you’ll wonder why this video went the way it did. I have to just quickly add, ever since the movie “Old School” I can’t take the chorus seriously at all because all I keep thinking is “I fucking need you now tonight.”
hanks to the writers of that movie for giving this horrible 80’s anthem some much needed levity.
Getting back to the abandoned school this cat lady still lives in, in the course of 30 seconds there’s a boy wearing wings and tossing a dove(hopefully the doves acan find each other and get the fuck out), and more young men, who this time are shirtless though, and someone throwing water on them, and there’s fucking goddamn ninja’s just dancing around the room. It’s absolutely absurd in every way it can be.
The next section of this video that won nothing in the way of awards, shows Bonnie Tyler singing atop a staircase, and there’s light coming through the window. You have a school full of the ghosts of young men and there’s only electricity through this one window? How am I supposed to make a sandwich with one beam of light?
Now she’s running helplessly as all the doors just shoot open and we see all of the boys trashing the place. Why are they though? What deep dark secret is held within these walls that makes them start breaking stuff? After that, all the boys are now dressed in choir robes and have weird white eyes while they’re singing to Tyler. It’s one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen, and it still makes no sense.
This is where it gets really weird and drives right into sexual abuse town. She’s singing about never being wrong and how they’ll keep making it right(by, having intercourse I assume), and she’s surrounded by a whole bunch of sweaty teenagers. I’m pretty sure Bonnie Tyler abused these boys at this school. It might be a leap if you haven’t seen this video, but seriously, I watched this with three other people and we all came to the same conclusion. You think it’s over, but then this shirtless angel man envelops her in his wings and starts stroking her body with said wings.
After the lightning and bullshit we’re treated to a flashback of Ms. Tyler (that bitch ain’t got no husband) walking up to a group of students on a normal day at school. Yes, the same students we’ve been seeing the whole time.
Then it becomes completely clear that she loved her students, but not in the way a teacher is supposed to. She had relations with these boys. Well, maybe not all of them, but the one with the glowing white eyes singing to her as they romantically hold hands as the video closes, you know he definitely got some lovin’. You can just tell by the look she gives him, which is vastly uncomfortable.
The video ends with Tyler standing alone on the steps as the students try to learn something from a book and forget this crazy woman who loves her students. This video is a testament to how inappropriate some videos are, and how clearly people either didn’t put the pieces together, or they were in earnest trying to make a video about teachers sleeping with their students. Either way I hope you enjoyed this, and if you don’t believe it, just watch this wild ass video. Thanks for reading.
What are some videos that have aged poorly that you will never forget? Comment below! Follow us for more content at @thedeathofthemixtape on instagram, facebook and Spotify. Thanks for reading.
Since the early 90’s prog metal purveyors Tool have been pushing the limit of what could be considered mainstream rock. Over the course of five studio albums they’ve more than made a name for themselves, bri ging in fans of metal, prog rock, and even some more jam band friendly listeners. The stage shows are nothing short of legendary and epic, and its left all maybe Toolheads craving for more, even though the band takes their time. I hope you enjoy this list of the best Tool songs. As always i welcome discussion, thanks for reading.
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10 FORTY SIX & 2: ÆNIMA
There are plenty of songs throughout this record that have the capacity to pull in the listener. This one however has become a fan favorite over the years, and when you listen to it, especially with headphones, it takes you on a ride so heavy and thought provoking that it's hard to resist. The guitar work by Adam Jones has this whirling, surreal, almost trace like element to it. The drums, much like the early guitar part, start slow and build as Keenan’s voice provides his signature meandering vocal patterns, going full tilt only to draw himself back with restraint. It’s that kind of restraint that makes Keenan, and Tool as a unit so interesting to watch or listen too. They know exactly when to add tension, and when to ease back. They’ve performed this virtually every time i’ve seen them live, and even if you aren’t a fan of the album version, seeing it live makes its that much more enjoyable and cathartic.
9. PARABOL/ PARABOLA: LATERALUS
Many songs on Lateralus are considered classics by fans of the band, but for my money it rarely gets better than seeing the overflow of energy as the tracks transition from slow and brooding to explosive and brimming with life. “Parabol” shimmers in the darkness like a fire starting to ignite, while it’s counterpart “Parabola” acts like the fire fully grown. It’s a song about life and it’s existence, and how we continue to try to elevate our lives with positivity. It’s a heavy song yes, but the lyrics and vocal work by Keenan make it all the more special for its eye opening interpretation of life’s challenging moments. The guitar work is also second to know , evoking this kind of Egyptian undertone that really works well within the parameters of the song.
8. LOST KEYS/ ROSETTA STONED: 10,000 DAYS.
Let me just say quickly, that while most believe, and I guess rightfully so, that this song is about a hippie on DMT who is hallucinating horrible things, I personally like to believe that not only is this song about a man who has seen unbelievable things, but also that the meaning of what he’s trying to tell everyone is of vast importance. Stumbling, murmuring nonsense he seeks help in the only place he thinks might be able to help him, a hospital. He may be dying, but the listener can’t be sure. This is what is great about the band. Tool recognize the importance of using the art of others and drawing your own conclusions. Now, like I said, While the DMT drug story holds up, and much can be explained away because of that, for me it’s just more fun to imagine the limitless potential of the gift these Aliens have bestowed upon this high school dropout. In that respect it's also a very sad, depressing song. Towards the end of the song though, Kerman’s voice erupts over the ambient Egyptian style grooves with the line “Overwhelmed as one would be placed in my position, such a heavy burden now to be the one. Born to bear and read to all the details of our ending, write it for the whole wide world to see. But I forget my pen, Shit the bed again, typical.” It’s so beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time that it moves you in a way most heavier bands aren’t capable of.
7. 7EMPEST: FEAR INOCULUM
At nearly 16 minutes, this track off the bands most recent is easily the longest in their career. It’s also one of the best instrumentally driven songs in their quartets arsenal. The guitar riff from Adam Jones is tremendous and winding, but also heavy and heavy in tone. The drums by Carey and bass by Chancellor only enhance the track as well, giving Keenan in vocals more than enough leg roof to build a song that’s as clearly about the parasites of society as anything is in their entire discography. Now while there’s no definitive proof that this might be about an recent dismissed orange haired sexual assault and traitor, the lyrics speak for themselves. Either way, the song is a landmark of the bands signature style, and as the record draws to an end, “7empest” remains a transcendent song in the world of Tool.
6. PUSHIT: ÆNIMA
This was one of those first tracks that properly made me comprehend the journey of long songs. While Tool doesn’t even have the longest songs in general ( Sunn O))), Godspeed You Black Emperor, Motion Sickness of Time Travel come to mind), their songs truly are journeys of interstellar proportions. The band has said many times how they meticulously go about searching every rabbit hole, and exploring the boundaries before they decide that’s where this road is taking them. Many bands rush to record, and you can tell because the end product suffers. Tool simply refuse to do this. As one of the lengthier, but equally stand out songs of their entire career, Pushitt serves as not only an excellent leap forward into more trippy landscapes, but also as a clear indicator as to where the band was heading next. In my opinion, the journey of this song is the tipping point for brilliance. From where I’m standing you can clearly see that not only were they pleased with the road this took them on, but that they could dive even deeper with subsequent releases.
5. THE GRUDGE: LATERALUS
I still remember the day I picked up this record. Long before streaming was commonplace, you had to wait to hear shit before it was “released.” I mention this because as soon as that now familiar sound at the start of the sign, you can feel like you’re preparing for something big to open up. That opening, filled with resentments, and punishingly steady drum beats sets the course for the entire rest of the album. It’s nearly nine minutes long, and while not quite as long as some of the signs that came before, it still does more than enough to get the blood flowing. The vocals are nestled in sections, quietly at first, but as the song and it’s shared intensity with the vocals join together, you get the full scope the band was going for. At number five, I urge you to “Wear the Grudge like a Crown” as you try to overcome your feelings of anger and resentment.
For many, this album and lead track was the big break that got them into the band. I had heard the previous records of course, but when this came out, it lit up my imagination and showed me tons of new sounds I had never knew possible before. This track, the one that begins the record, is as drudge filled and intense as anything else you hear on the remainder of Ænima, but it’s also just a phenomenal way to begin this landmark album. The lyrics are dark and twisted, and while I imagine horrible things happening in the shadows, I can’t turn away to shield myself from the ugliness of the track. It’s quite simply an intense ride that sets us on an off road, difficult course. Seeing this performed live is even more spectacular. The energy Keenan expels makes you melt into tranquility, and the raw emotion of the instrumentation makes you want to move your body. Some heavy bands are capable of this, but Tool is one of the ones who have perfected the art.
3. DESCENDING: FEAR INOCULUM
As the track opens, listeners are treated to a slowly building atmospheric section, almost like a tide coming in. Within a few minutes we hear the ominous tone of guitar work as Jones and his instrument serenade the listener gently, even though we know the song is likely to not end as solemnly as it began. Keenan really does an excellent job of matching lyrics to the cavalcade of atmospheric bass drums and guitar surrounding his huddling vocals. By the five minute mark the drums start thumping outfly in classic Tool fashion, but the lyrics are the most important during these moments. They convey an apprehension that sounds like the end of the road, but the song draws in all types of emotions as it whirls towards its finale in glorious prof rock fashion.
2. THIRD EYE: ÆNIMA
“Think for yourself, question authority,” might as well be the motto of the band. While this song hasn’t been played a lot at the shows I’ve attended, I’ve heard that phrase quite a few times. The opening of the “Salival” version, provided by Tim Leary, basically sets the stage for the most epic, mind melting pieces in their catalog. This song has more loops and turns than an episode of “LOST.” It also happens to have a persistence that doesn’t quit for the entire 14:05 minutes of the song. Seeing this song live, and especially as the show opener is just insane. Most bands don’t have the nerve to open a two hour show with the longest song they plan to play that night, but Tool do it without missing a beat. Speaking on the topic of mixing, and making sure that every part is integral is something no one except maybe Radiohead does better than Tool. They understand the lyrics are not the overwhelming plot point of the song. Everything you hear is meant to induce emotions. Sure the lyric helps, but all parts are equally valuable. With more than five minutes left, the song takes yet another turn. It goes from ominous foreshadowing to the welcoming of a love thought lost perhaps. Then another turn down a spiraling rabbit hole. Imploring us to open our eyes may or may not have something to do with the opening dialogue on the track. Humans aren’t meant to be conditioned by rules. We are too great of a people. Life without boundaries is the most ultimate gift anyone can achieve, yet at times it’s those very rules of society that help us to stay safe. Then another, even uglier turn, this time with the intense drums of Carey while Keenan proclaims “ Prying open my third eye,” as the song comes to a final, full circle resting place.
1. LATERALUS: LATERALUS
This is easily the best Tool song ever made, and a perfect representation of the album. It has every awesome aspect of the album in one perfect, thought out space of time. The lyrics describe the opening of a world to a baby, or perhaps, a rebirth of an older soul. This is where the “ Saturn Return” comes into place again. But also, it’s described as the opening of a LSD trip, where bright colors slowly make themselves known. Now, we talked about the importance of Justin Chancellor earlier, but this is the song where he easily shines the most. Now, one of the most interesting things about this song is the time signatures. I’m no musician, but I think most hardcore music fans can recognize the brilliance. The weirdest thing about this song however, is how the signatures, and the lyrics were both thought of separately and without mutual knowledge from the two key participants. In an interview Keenan goes on to explain while he was writing the theme of spiral’s turning in on themselves stuck out and brought a clear focus not only to the song, but the band’s feelings at the time. Here’s where it gets really intriguing though. The original name of the song was 9-8-7, for the weird time signatures, but then the band realized that 987 was the 16th number in the Fibonacci sequence, which also shares interests with the “ Golden Spiral.” I hope that doesn’t confuse you. In other words, there are lyrical and musical reasons why this is the most important, and strongest Tool Song. The positivity of the song is worth noting. It’s imploring us to live every day to the fullest, and maybe, to always try to expand your knowledge, one way or another. Ride the spiral, to the end.
I remember when I used to get surprised, and likely excited at the news of a great band getting back together. Now, not only is it not surprising, it’s almost expected. Many consider the Pixies playing Coachella as the official launch of the major reunion, but since that moment in 2004, I could probably name at least 60 bands that have either entirely reunited or returned after long hiatuses and call it a “reunion.” Like most entertainment this can go very well, or very badly. As you’ll see going forward, there’s ample examples of both. I hope you enjoy, and I encourage comments below, thanks for reading.
YEARS REFORMED: 2016- Current
Now that enough time has passed, I think I can be a little more honest. I’m still of two minds regarding this reunion. Now, they went out on top, huge in the influential world of indie rock, and they did it in style. It also seemed as though it was genuine, which I believe it was at the time, The finale, which I wasn't fortunate enough to attend, was incredible to watch nonetheless, even though it was on my computer. I was bummed but I really thought it was over. They seemed to have become my white whale. But the reunion came, and for once I wished they had actually stuck to their guns and just let it behind. The new album was great, and I finally got to see them several times, but honestly I felt like it was a long between album break, and not a break-up, which is what it is. I also think about how much was made off of fans going to a :last ever show” and doing whatever they had to do to get there, only for them to come back less than five years later and headline all these enormous festivals for everyone to see.
YEARS REFORMED: 2005- Current
The funniest thing about the second incarnation of Dinosaur Jr. is either how much better they are now as a band, or the fact they've actually been a band longer now then when they first formed and broke up. Since disbanding in 1997 and coming back with “Beyond” in 2007, the band has melded better than initially, and the albums are arguably better and more polished. The playing of Murph, Barlow & Mascis has also been elevated, with recent albums like “I Bet On Sky” really building on that thuddingly powerful guitar they're known so well for. I loved them momentarily as a boy of ten and eleven, but they’ve really elevated themselves to one of the great rock bands of the alternative world. They’re loud, raunchy and deliver consistently great albums.
YEARS REFORMED: 2014 only
I mean, man what a mixed bag. I’m just talking for myself here, but it almost feels like the reunion of 2014 never happened. The band didn’t get back together, Andre never really ended up doing anything, and Big Boi essentially kept on the path he was on the first time OK split. Instead what we got was a reunion nearly completely done for the money and the chance to just say they did it, but more than a few shows weren’t fondly remembered by artists or fans. Andree recalled during the first Coachella show he was essentially already over it before it even started, and the results were obvious. Plenty of people at the time complained on the complete ambivalence among the band during the huge return everyone was talking about. Even the show that I’m happy i at least attended in New Orleans for that October's Voodoo Fest was plagued by serious speaker issues, not to mention extreme bass and feedback. It wasn’t a good look, and i don’t recall walking away thinking it was anything special. But, its not as though the older albums aren’t still incredible, which they are, it’s just a sad reminder that sometimes its over, and it deserves to just be left alone.
DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979
YEARS REFORMED: 2011- Current
Another one that i was initially excited for, but as time went on the spark fizzled, at least for me. When they broke up I was devastated. I had only recently gotten into them maybe a year before, and it had been an instant love. But when they reunited, I was ecstatic and definitely made it a point to see them again when they chance came, which happened to be that same Voodoo Fest that Outkast headlined. That show was tremendous, and the recently released reunion album was way better than most reunion albums. All three times I saw them after the reunion was with a very close friend, and we both felt the same about all of them. First was great, but the second at Shaky Knees was maybe one of the worst sets I;ve ever seen. The final opening for Deftones & Incubus was much better than the Shaky set, but I think it worked so well because of the shortened set. Even at 35 its an intense set. Sadly the third album was mostly forgettable, and who knows what's up with the next album. I’m hoping we see the type of frenetic energy that made them so special in the first place, but we’ll have to wait and see.
GUNS N ROSES
YEARS REFORMED: 2016- Current
Let's get this out of the way: Who would have EVER thought this was going to work so well, last, and honestly, be as critically praised as it ended up being. It’s not as if they were known for being the most reliable, but they fucking pulled it off man. Because of who I am, even though I'm not a huge fan, I read most reviews of the tour I saw, and plenty, I'd say eight percent were well regarded. Maybe some of the venues weren’t completely full, but they also headlined a ton of huge festivals with even bigger crowds. The shows started on time, a first for the band. And they sounded incredible from mostly everyone I know who attended the shows. Lately the band has been recording, and before Covid hit plans were being set in motion. News of tours followed, and well, now their fans just wait for when they can see the legends again.
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This is a band I was a little late to get into, but they really are only the most important indie rock bands of the last few years. There’s not much bad I can say about this band, so I’ll just let you read for yourself about what this band does that moves me. enjoy the list, Thanks for reading!
10. GHOSTS OF BEVERLY DRIVE: KINTSUGI
By the time this record came out, the band had firmed their position as one of the biggest risk takers in modern indie rock, if you can even say DCFC is still Indie rock. Either way, “Ghosts'' has that familiar DC feeling to it, but the instrumentation is more kingly than many of their other tracks. For all intents and purposes, that musical element makes a nice contrast to the odd lyrical content of the song. Gibbard's lyrics have the tendency to be either very clear or very symbolic and metaphorical, with this song falling in the latter category. For all those previously stated reasons, “The Ghost of Beverly Drive'' opens our countdown at number ten.
9. BIXBY CANYON BRIDGE: NARROW STAIRS
The guitar part here twinkles and shines just like the stars do at night. Then the crunchy guitar section comes in and the song completely changes course. I’m not exactly sure what the song is about, but it’s pretty rocking and very out of the ordinary for this band. Again the lyrics are an added compliment to the music, with this track being more youthful and optimistic than some of the other selections on this list. As the song progresses we get thumping drums and soon the rest of the band follows along. It’s important to always try to push yourselves to try new things, and in this number, they succeed very easily.
8. CATH…: NARROW STAIRS
One of the best things about DCFC is their ability to make freeing and often reflective songs that are also really fun to sing along to. That’s what Cath is to me. It has many good elements working in unison, and while the lyrics aren’t exactly uplifting, it’s still a fun song to listen and dance to while you hold your partner close. The drums are clutch here, as they literally guide the song from one section to the next. The imagery is again expertly painted lyrically by Gibbard, but really the song is more interesting from a musical standpoint rather than a lyrical one.
7. BLACK SUN: KINTSUGI
I’ve always felt like this was an exploration of songwriting after Gibbard's divorce, and the more I think of the lyrics the more relevant it seems. Once strong emotions now torn and ravaged by sadness and finality are presented casually but sullenly during the duration of “Black Sun.” Signs of a tainted conclusion are littered through the song, but it’s the voice of Gibbard that makes you feel as though you can get through it. “Black Sun” paints a picture we all know, of the difficulty of partners who aren’t really in it for the unit as much as they are for themselves. It’s a sad song full of regret and sadness but in its pain it also shows us truths we’d rather not address until we have to.
6. CROOKED TEETH: PLANS
I just love the imagery they present us with. The tune itself is jolly and carefree, no real surprise there. While I do love the imagery, I’d be lying if I said I knew what the song was actually about. It’s pretty all over the place, but I like it. It’s an upbeat track that uses the band's whimsical effects to the benefit of the song and the lyrics. I feel the regret seeping through the song, but the lyrics are sung in a way that makes it seem less dark than it actually is. There might be people who hear this song and think its just your average indie song, which it might have been, but I argue the success of Death Cab makes it easier to refer to this song as average, simply because the groundwork laid out by the band sets the stage for many indie artists to follow their path.
5. THE SOUND OF SETTLING: TRANSATLANTICISM
Another good sing-along. To me this song is about not knowing where life is going to take you, and trying to just enjoy the ride and learn from everything you can. Like the song says, “ Old age is just around the bend.” I have known quite a few people in my brief time on earth who I’ve felt never truly lived. I’ve always felt sorry for the people who chose to live that way. The song reminds us to always live in the moment, and to experience life for all the treasures it holds.
4. I WILL POSSESS YOUR HEART: NARROW STAIRS
This album was the biggest departure from the bands earlier records, and brought about a more experimental sound for the band. That’s why this song makes the list. It works in regards to developing a new sound, but it also works with the older songs from the earlier records. The winding and meandering of the opening minutes set’s the stage for what becomes a pretty dark song, at least to me. At first I thought it was pretty romantic, but once I started to hear the lyrics, I’m now convinced it’s about a psychopath who can’t truly understand what love is, and how one day he get’s fed up with trying to get women to like him, and more than likely start’s kidnapping those same women and forces them to be involved with him.
3. WHAT SARAH SAID: PLANS
At number three, we have “What Sarah Said,” a song seeped in the heartbreaking traditions of the band and some if theur best songs, but it's also an interesting juxtaposition in how the track came to be. Many of Death Cab’s work because of their autobiographical nature, but ‘Sarah' comes straight from the mind of Gibbard. Which is to say none of this ever happened as it is presented. The song was inspired by Gibbard's brain as he thought about the loneliness and sadness that are often associated with hospitals and places of healing. In truth the song breaks the tension effortlessly, as the protagonist has one of the worst conversations you could ever have, all as he watches his loved one die. This is not a happy, well meaning song, but in its brutal reflection of death, you feel the strength of life and love. At number three, may i present to you “What Sarah Said
2. TRANSATLANTICISM: TRANSATLANTICISM
The opening lines of this song set the tone and high caliber for the rest of the remaining minutes. Ben Gibbard’s voice, soft and sweet, looks over a valley, and reminisces about the world coming to an end, or at least that’s what I like to imagine. The sky overlooking us is hazy, with mixtures of pink and purple. The waves are enveloping everything around us, and for a brief moment, we understand how meaningless we are in terms of the grand scheme of things. This song captivates the listener in a way many songs simply can’t. Death Cab has always had a way to move emotions and spirits in a small, restrained beauty, and this song is one of the best examples of the band gradually building and adding little things until all members of the band are not only sharing the load, they’re being rewarded for the struggles that make up the song.
1. I WILL FOLLOW YOU INTO THE DARK: PLANS
There are times in one’s life where nothing feels right, but for those times there are always songs that bring you a sense of closure and peace. This is that song for me. It could be about a romantic relationship, or a friendship that has weathered storms, or it could be about a family member who’s left your world to join the other. For me it’s a little bit of all three. I’m reminded how amazing it is to share your life with someone who understands you perfectly, and who will always be there. It’s also about the loss of my grandmother, who was a shining light in me for the first three decades of my life, who unfortunately had to exit this world. People come and go in life, in varying stages of importance, but for everyone who gives something to someone, you get value in love and meaningfful gifts in every day of life. “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” is a testament to the struggles of life and also to the joy in finding people who complete you and who will always take the leap and will happily follow you in the dark, hand in hand, just as they joined you.
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As a group in their third decade, there’s not much the band hasn’t accomplished. Sure it hasn’t been one perfect ride, there's been suffering amid successes, but through it all the core of the band: Vedder, Gossard, Ament, & McCreedy have consistently stuck to their guns, often at their own peril. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still a hugely popular band, but in the mainstream current atmosphere of trendy music for trendy sake, they’ve been reduced to a dad band of sorts, even though the music is still evocative, emotional and sharp tongued both in its orientation but instrumentation as well. As we conclude our unofficial “PJ” month, I wanted to take an untraditional route in discussing the bands history, so today we discuss the bands top five albums, that I believe have had the most positive influence on the band's success. Enjoy.
5. VITALOGY: 1994
We start our countdown with a record from the early days when Pearl Jam as a unit went to war with Ticketmaster and all the chaos and change that forced. Essentially during the touring cycle of this record, with its success carried by mega hit “Better Man,” the band was seeking better arrangements for fans and artists alike. As you probably know ticketmaster is still a price gouging monokey, but for the first time a major band was saying we’re going to play untraditional venues to get a better deal for everyone not working at ticketmaster. The tour, with Ramones as support, was a success, but the album in my memory became less of a focal point than the controversy itself, which is a shame because the album rocks throughout. Tracks like the hauntingly consistent “Tremor Christ,” nestled next to tearjerkers like “Nothingman,” with all its sorrow and regret. But then you get songs like the utterly odd “Bugs” thrown in while also including “Immortality.” Give it a listen soon, it's better than you remember.
4. RIOT ACT: 2002
Pretty much from the start of the band's career they’ve meandered occasionally into the world of political commentary, often to great success. This record is seeping with turmoil and unhappiness, and for the most part it's immediate in speed and intensity. Vedder is in fine form throughout, yet the band seems to steer the way more here than on other records in my opinion. “Save You,” the second track is as punk and angst driven as the band gets, but by the next track we’re serenaded with the romantic but apocalyptic sentiment of “Love Boat Captain,” which is a harsh departure but one that’s welcome. This type of versatility is consistent with the band from their first records. Never afraid to take a risk, mixing styles and rambles with genuinely heartfelt passages. This was made in part during the early Bush years, and as reflected in the albums title, it's an early call to action at times for a band that was vehemently against his candidacy and ultimate election. Just look at the not so subtle knock of “Bu$leaguer” and how Vedder dissects Bush’s “pathway” to success, as if it were earned. Either way, i feel like this often gets dismissed as not being as good as it is, when in fact it's better in many ways and shows a real emotional growth to the band.
3. YIELD: 1998
In 98 i was just figuring out my love of not just rock but metal and other varieties, but I’ll always remember getting this one random Sunday at a backwoods walmart i happened to be in with my mom. I loved “Brain of J” and the harsh reality of change it put in the forefront. The song obviously is a pointed look at the death of President Kennedy, but it's also written from the perspective of a person who grew up without seminal events happening just before his arrival, growing up in a different world than the one his parents mentioned. The album feels more sentimental than many of their others to me as well, with songs like “Given to Fly” being a sort of life affirming moment you can only get from good ole’ american rock music. The one two punch of “Given” and “Wishlist” also earmark the band as truly american in their attitudes, loves and philosophies. Next to Tom Petty maybe, I can’t think of a band better suited to address the woes of modern blue collar Americans, even if they are rich these days. “Yield” as a record has this ability to settle you while discussing the harsh realities of our world. It even knows when to be sarcastic in the form of a rant known as “Do the Evolution,” which again thumbs its nose at our constructs and institutions. Track after track is stellar, concluding with rockers like “MFC,” anthems in the way of “In Hiding,” and plenty of other memorables tracks. Also, having Matt Cameron of Soundgarden fame join the fold really helped things along in terms of creativity.
2. VS.: 1993
From the opening moments of “Vs.” all the way until the conclusion of “Indifference” there’s a certain gritty danger permeating through this record. That danger morphs and changes as the record goes, with “Daughter” being one of the more gentle sounding songs, even if it’s only musically tender and not lyrically gentle. Tracks like “Animal” and album opener “Go” both have that raw energy coasting through them, but then you have a track like “Elderly Woman…” which showcases the anger and reservations of never leaving a small town like so many others who gave up on experiencing the world. On the other end of that, there are songs like “Blood” and “Leash” that are as aggressive as the band gets during the 45 or so minute runtime of the record. Overall the record delivers in different ways than its blockbuster predecessor, but it’s way more immediate in movement than their debut was, and you can tell the time between records, albeit small, did help to make the band better than they were before, even if the record didn’t end up being as perfect or popular as “Ten.” When listening to songs like like the earlier mentioned “Blood” you feel vindicated in battle, as if you’re fighting with every fiber of your life, while during selections like the classic “Rearviewmirror” you feel the need to figuratively haul ass away from the dangers of the present, bracing for change. All of this encompasses the struggles and action among the band to strive to be their best.
1. TEN: 1991
What can you really say about “Ten” at this point that hasn’t been stated before? Mostly nothing, except that it’s just as good, Maybe better than you remember. When I began writing this, I was fairly certain my number two choice, “Vs.” was going to be the number one. That is, until I actually listened to “Ten” for the first time in god knows how many years. What I found was that not only have certain songs become more relevant than ever, but also songs that have more emotion running through them than your average rock band. From the start it’s clear Vedder wore his massive heart on his sleeve. Songs like “Alive” deal with the pain only family’s can provide, while opener “Once” flies above the real world Problems inherent in the lyrics. Then you have tracks like the ominous and heartbreaking “Black,” not to mention the now commonly occurring themes that make “Jeremy” all the more terrifying and eye opening. Many times listening to “Ten” I felt that familiar connection to the lyrical content simmering throughout “Tens” duration. It’s not only one of the best rock albums of the still getting farther away 90’s, but also the best collection of songs the five Piece of Seattle has ever conjured up. Thanks for reading!
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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