Tag Archives: Tool

My Life in Music: B-Sides

Bsides Following last week’s blog posts about the best albums from ever year I have been alive, this (final) post acts as a quick round-up of what has gone before and a short summary of other records that (ideally) would have been on the list as well. As a recap, my previous blogs in this series can be found here:

Part 1: From Out of Nowhere (1985-1991)
Part 2: Where Boys Fear to Tread (1992-1998)
Part 3: Dancing Through Sunday (1999-2005)
Part 4: Set Fire to the Hive (2006-2012)

Since I could only choose one entry per year, it wasn’t possible to include every of my favourite albums in this series; as a result, some of the finest musical works have not been represented here. In an attempt to redress the balance, here are a supplementary seven records that lost out (maybe because of very competitive years) that should not be overlooked. Here we go!

Dream Theater – Images and Words (1992)


Despite losing out (just) to the mind-blowing Angel Dust for the 1992 crown, it shouldn’t be underestimated what a landmark record Images and Words is in modern progressive rock/metal. There’s a killer amount of depth to the sophomore album that brought the band to the attention of the masses, and it still remains a stone-cold classic that kicks off with perhaps the defining Dream Theater compositions; the enthralling ‘Pull Me Under’. Where their first release (1989’s Where Day and Dream Unite) was a competent and promising debut, their potential is fully realised on this, their follow-up, which reaps the benefits of greater musical gestation along with the addition of James LaBrie’s vocal talents. Images and Words, then, covers a broad spectrum of DT’s vein of prog-metal, hitting hard on the likes of ‘Take the Time’ whilst remaining delicate and light on slow, atmospheric peaks like the swirling ‘Wait for Sleep’ and the crossover with the deeply progressive ‘Learning to Live’.  Dream Theater would later rack up more classic albums (2005’s delightful Octavarium, in particular), but Images and Words will ever be the epitaph that will grace DT’s tombstone when they finally hang up their instruments; something we should all hope they don’t do for a good while yet.

Song Choice: [Pull Me Under]

Tool – Lateralus (2001)


As will become clear over the next few entries, choosing a winner for 2001 brought on more heartache than for any other year; even though Daft Punk’s Discovery deserves nothing less the God-like status, it did mean that near-perfect albums like Lateralus had to be left out. More accessible than Ænima and less meandering than 10,000 Days, the science of intelligent, progressive metal is well and truly mastered on Lateralus. Home to swirling melodies, mathematical time signatures and unsettling noises, Tool’s output always sits closer to ‘art’ than ‘music’; something that Lateralus‘ beautiful packaging and artwork do little to dispel. More important is the mathematical detail; the whole album subject to numerical concepts and support to an overarching Fibonacci sequence portrayed in musical form (seriously, look it up). More so than any of Tool’s other work, Lateralus is perhaps the most elusive; feeling sometimes like a soaring eagle rather than a metal behemoth. It also captures time in such a way that each successive listen will bring back to the first time you played it, with the full force of art and music in perfect harmony. Lateralus will never be bettered, but then again, the pinnacles of a whole genre rarely are.

Song Choice: [Lateralus]

Weezer – Weezer [the Green Album] (2001)


After a somewhat lukewarm reception to their (undoudtedly superb) sophomore album Pinkerton, Weezer went into hiding for five long, wilderness years before dropping their follow-up with very little announcement and only minor fanfare. Taking the opportunity to reboot themselves, Weezer brought forth another self-titled output (lovingly nicknamed by fans as the ‘Green Album’) that recalls much of the powerpop/rock from their debut Weezer (the ‘Blue Album’) and contrast with the darker tone(s) on Pinkerton. Clocking in at just shy of thirty minutes in length, the Green Album blisters through ten catchy, simple songs that define the classic Weezer powerpop formula; Rivers Cuomo’s faultless writing and melodies latching onto the brain’s nervous system and never really letting go. The rejuvenated band would later release the equally superb Maladroit scarcely a year later, on the back of critical and artistic success. That being so, the Green Album remains a landmark entry in Weezer’s (now-) prolific output and, twelve years on, still utterly essential. The Blue Album may be the universal classic that will be remembered for decades, but The Green Album is my nominee; completely encapsulating a time and place in my life that may never be bettered.

Song Choice: [Hash Pipe]

Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet (2001)


What is there to say about this record that can’t be gleaned from the cover image alone? This a party record; designed solely to (sonically) destroy your face and to make you party hardier than is humanly possible. From beginning to end, this is 100% solid balls-to-the-wall rock and roll, and unashamedly so. Wearing its motives on its sleeve with pride and power, I Get Wet is pure, unadulterated fun, condensed into twelve, 3-minute pop songs with overdriven guitars, keyboard and drums beaten at a breakneck pace. A more un-pretentious, entertaining statement-of-intent you will not find. Here, Doctor Andrew finds the formula for PARTY, distils it into musical form, and prescribes doses to be taken (at least) twice a day to the aural senses. The haters may hate, but find me a (true) music fan that doesn’t adore AWK’s simple message for partying hard and I’ll eat my own head.

Song Choice: [Party Hard]

Cave In – Antenna (2003)


In the extensive Cave In back catalogue, Antenna feels like both an anomaly and a delight. The 2003 album was critically applaud upon its release (indeed, the likes of Kerrang! poured bountiful plaudits over it for many months, nay years), but it marked an evolutionary change in sound from its predecessor, Jupiter,  and a more harmonious appearance than its successor, Perfect Pitch Black; both of which contain lyrics, compositions and screams much harder than anything that can be found here. While Cave In themselves found much to dislike on Antenna, the rest of us can plunder from its pulsating, emotive alt-rock and revel in its handling of raw themes drifting in and out of infectious musical refrain. It’s the least abrasive entry in the Cave In library, and as such feels far more cutting than some of their more post-hardcore or metalcore releases; which, in their roughness, often lose connection in therefore their primary source of power. The endurance of Antenna comes from the passion and prowess contained within its dozen tracks, and is likely display further longevity for many years to come.

Song Choice [Inspire]

Justice – † [Cross] (2007)


Much like another certain French electro-house duo, Justice are the master conductors of the kind of grandiose EDM soundscapes that were always destined to be played to gigantic crowds to great acclaim. Despite two subsequent live albums and another studio release, 2007’s masterwork, † (Cross), remains their enduring studio recording, and one that’s home to a million samples/electronic compositions lifted from the breadth of pop, rock and electronica. From the opening track (aptly-titled ‘Genesis’), it’s clear that Justice mean business – where Daft Punk were always about art and music in equal measure (those helmets and the Instella 5555 movie withstanding), Justice are 100% about the music. The first thing that’s noticeable is the relative lack of voice: the majority of Cross is instrumental, feeling like some sort of lumbering, electro-mechanical machine and the inner-workings on this are most clear on grinding, chugging monsters like ‘Stress’; regardless, the likes of ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ and ‘DVNO’ demonstrate that Justice know intimately how best to fill a dancefloor. In spite of all this, however, the only place to properly experience Justice is in the live setting, and their arena spectacular is truly a joy to behold; one that I encourage everyone to seek out.

Song Choice: [Genesis]

Ke$ha – Animal/Cannibal (2010)


For many people, it’ll probably be a bit of a shock to see something like Ke$ha on this list; those that truly know me, though, will not be surprised (although they may still be slightly appalled). In many ways, this is the sister album to Andrew WK’s staggering I Get Wet (which only just missed out on the 2001 award and which will be reviewed in the upcoming ‘B-Sides’ post); the absolute embodiment of party. Regardless of what you think of her, Ke$ha has some mighty catchy songs (although a minor inability to spell things correctly): ‘Tik Tok’. ‘We R Who We R’ and ‘Your Love is My Drug’ and but a few. The sneerers may sneer and the haters may hate, but music was invented to be fun, and not everything has to push the boundaries of musicianship or art: sometimes you just need to kick off your shoes, shuffle over to the dancefloor and go crazy. We were born to break the doors down; fight until the end. #Warrior

Song Choice: [Your Love is My Drug]


[ Final Words ]

There we are, so that’s it: thirty-five of my most precious albums ever ever; all rounded up and brought together into the world’s most giant mixtape. It’s been fun: the process has certainly given me ample opportunity to re-assess a few albums I’d previously dismissed, and see them in a different light.

It’s certainly interesting that the most difficulty I had (with choosing a winner for each year) came for 2001-2004; arguably my formative years for getting into rock and metal. It’s not necessarily that these years held ‘better’ music than any of the others (although Daft Punk’s Discovery is and will always be the greatest musical achievement of humanity), but that my emotional connection to them is strongest.  Perhaps my rather scattershot rock/metal music tastes have been justifiably represented in this list – certainly my tastes have gotten a whole lot more eclectic in the last few years; perhaps that’s a sign that I’m getting old. My passion for music doesn’t seem to be abating any, though: I still consume a truckload of music, as my Last.FM profile will attest to. I have no idea what the next seven years may hold in store; whether the choice albums from those years will be ones by bands already covered in this list, or populated by a whole raft of new artists.  We can but wait and see.

But like any good Oscars speech, there are a heckload of other contenders that I’d like to address, and thank for the joy they’ve brought and the passion that they’ve inspired: here’s an attempt to do justice to the many other albums that have graced my ears again and again and again, and that remain very dear to me. I’ll stream them as a big list here, as footnote to to those I’ve already covered in more detail. Thanks everyone; you’re the best.

Pearl Jam – Ten (1991)
Soundgarden – Superunknown (1994)
Machine Head – Burn My Eyes (1994)
Green Day – Nimrod (1997)
Air – Moon Safari (1998)
Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile (1998)
AFI – Black Sails in the Sunset (1999)
Slipknot – Slipknot (1999)
Jimmy Eat World – Clarity (1999)
American Hi-Fi – American Hi-Fi (2001)
Rival Schools – United by Fate (2001)
Alkaline Trio – From Here to Infirmary (2001)
Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American (2001)
Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (2002)
Funeral For a Friend – Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation (2003)
The Ataris – So Long, Astoria (2003)
Brand New – Deja Entendu (2003)
Jimmy Eat World – Futures (2004)
Hayseed Dixie – Let There be Rockgrass (2004)
The Explosion – Black Tape (2004)
Power Quest – Neverworld (2004)
My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004)
Still Remains – Of Love and Lunacy (2005)
Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth (2005)
Dream Theater – Octavarium (2005)
Funeral For a Friend – Tales Don’t Tell Themselves (2007)
Owl City – Ocean Eyes (2009)
The XX – The XX (2009)
Ensiferum – From Afar (2009)


{ coming soon: My Life in Games and My Life in Movies }

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My Life in Music II: Where Boys Fear to Tread


Continuing from yesterday’s post (link), here’s the second part of my quest to examine and document my favourite full-length records from each year that I have been alive. This post covers my second seven years: 1992-1998, which describe a fondness for grunge and alt-rock. Tomorrow, I’ll examine 1999 through to 2005 before culminating in the most recent seven years.

So without further ado, let’s boogie:

1998: Less Than Jake – Hello Rockview

Hello Rockview

To the untrained eye, this probably seems a more obscure choice than others on this list; however, Hello Rockview was one that was a shoe-in from the get-go. Less Than Jake are one of my very, very, very favourite bands but as good as they may sound on record, it’s nothing to their consistently skank-tastic live show. But we’re not here to judge to judge live performances but recorded output, and Hello Rockview remains the pick of the bunch. Where LTJ hit their 20th anniversary in 2012, Hello Rockview remains the high-water mark for their album output: after a few scruffy (but solid) entries to the third-wave ska movement in Pezcore and Losing Streak, they really hit the sweet spot with their third album release. Sure, a ska-punk album is never going revolutionise the world, but finely hones the tropes of its genre; delivering  there’s a deft balance between horns and guitar, catchy tracks and insatiable lyrics superbly delivered by Chris DeMakes and Roger Manganelli. The whole is a near-flawless package, epic-ly catchy and perfectly skankable; polished off with some smooth production values that sand the rough edges into a clean-cut bundle of fun.

Song Choice: [All My Best Friends are Metalheads]

1997: Foo Fighters – The Colour and the Shape


In my humble little opinion, Dave Grohl is probably the most talented and influential rock musician of this generation. Out of the ashes of Nirvana came Pocketwatch!; a self-penned side-project which later developed into Foo Fighters, undoubted kings of stadium rock in the 21st century. Stepping out from behind the drums to create debut album Foo Fighters, on which Grohl played every instrument on the record before assembling a band for the live setting. It was only on the follow-up, The Colour and the Shape, that the Foo FIghters display a true group effort, and it shows. Count the classics: ‘Monkey Wrench’, ‘My Hero’ and ‘Everlong’; never mind a whole raft of other favourites like ‘Hey, Johnny Park!’, ‘Enough Space’ and ‘February Stars’. More so than their eponymous debut, there’s a barrel of emotion contained on this shiny disk, demonstrated by the powerful ‘My Hero’ and legendary ‘Everlong’, but it’s also still (arguably) the heaviest and most chaotic that Foo Fighters have been in their 18-year career. A masterclass in modern rock, it’s also a gateway between alternative rock and the heavier stuff, and undoubtedly has ushered many an indie kid into a full-blown rock and roll. Perfect in every way, a remarkable icon for an enduring band.

Song Choice: [Everlong]

1996: Tool – Ænima


Tool aren’t the most immediate of bands: the undoubted rulers of the prog-metal kingdom, their material can sometimes be overlooked since it’s sometimes deeply unsettling, progressive and leftfield. This is no more true than on Ænima, their sophomore effort which builds on the momentum gathered from debut Undertow, yet refuses to yield to accessibility. There’s a greater range of confidence on display than on its predecessor and while there’s the immense sense of craft that typifies any Tool release, it’s got the feeling of a slightly ‘rougher’ (perhaps “abrasive” is more appropriate) object of still considerable weight: I’ve no doubt that it’s all in Tool’s design; the endless struggle to trouble the listener with abstract ideas, sounds and images and disrupt the status quo. The formula would later be perfected on 2001’s Lateralus but regardless, Ænima represents an epic of  immense bulk, and an absolute classic in the progressive metal canon.

Song Choice: [Stinkfist]

1995: Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Inifinite Sadness


It took me almost five years to ‘get’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness; more accurately, five minutes to ‘get’ the first disc (‘Dawn to Dusk’), but five years to fully appreciate the second (‘Twilight to Starlight’). I first picked it up after hearing a few of the Pumpkins’ hits, like ‘1979’ and ‘Today’, and immediately fell in love with the first disc: the songs felt dream-like and wonderous (none more so than ‘Tonight, Tonight’), whilst others (such as ‘Bullet with Butterfly Wings’ and ‘Muzzle’) felt like pure-bred rockers. The second disc, on the other hand, is a lot more rough, inconsistent and meandering: the alt-rock anthem ‘1979’ is followed directly by ‘Tales of a Scorched Earth’, a song that could well have come from the back catalogue of any noisy alt-rock upstart. Like the band itself, Mellon Collie typifies the excesses and indulgences of the post-grunge period, but documents a stellar-esque jaunt through some of the Pumpkins’ most dreamlike lilts and lullabies which, to this day, remains a sheer delight.

Song Choice: [1979]

1994: Green Day – Dookie


Since Green Day’s ‘second coming’ circa American Idiot, it’s sometimes easy for the music mainstream to forget their first career. It’s also easy to forget that this album is nearly twenty years old, which is astonishing, given that this remains pretty much the pinnacle of punk rock and top of the ‘suggested playlist’ for teenage converts to the rock/metal scene: alongside the endeavours of The Offspring, Weezer and Blink-182, Dookie still ranks among the most influential albums to emerge from the Nineties pop-punk resurgence and feels no less relevant now. In between the classics (‘Basket Case’, ‘Welcome to Paradise’, ‘Longview’, ‘When I Come Around’) are ten other, equally superb punk rock anthems which reinvigorated the punk rock scene  and drove thousands to pick up a guitar and replicate Green Day’s signature three-chord sound; myself included. Cut me in half, and you’ll see Dookie scoring my bones and tissue, like rings on a tree trunk, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Song Choice: [Welcome to Paradise]

1993: Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream


For me, Siamese Dream is the ultimate Pumpkins record. It instills their skilled grunge leanings with a vision of the overblown, rock behemoth that they’d become on Mellon Collie… and beyond; yet keeping everything in check to deliver a lean, mean rock record that stands the test of time. Opening with the killer ‘Cherub Rock’ and soon following with the equally-brilliant ‘Today’, the album then opens up into an abrasive mix of short rock tunes and 7-plus minute epics in a way only the Pumpkins could pull off.  Sure, things get a tad bloated in the middle, but it’s rounded off magically with the maniacal ‘Silverfuck’, and then the two shortest songs of the record but which are also the most touching.  The Pumpkins may forever struggle to capture their heyday of the early 1990s, but thankfully with Siamese Dream, we have a snapshot of their brilliance that we can return to, again and again.

Song Choice: [Cherub Rock]

1992: Faith No More – Angel Dust


For the 1992 crown, there was a long-fought tussle between this and Dream Theater’s sublime Images and Words. For both bands, they represent a high-water mark in not only their back catalogues, but their respective genres as well. Indeed, according to a 2003 Kerrang pollAngel Dust is the most influential album of all time; Images and Words doesn’t appear on the list, which I can only assume is due to some typographical error. The Real Thing may have the more famous tracks, but Angel Dust is the connoisseur’s delight: ‘Midlife Crisis’ is the killer app, but the quality of the rest is still consistently superb and with a far more diverse musical genre-set than before. Representing FNM’s second album with Mike Patton, it’s here that his experimental, offbeat musical bandwidth really begins to reveal itself, nestling perfectly inside the band’s evolving, genre-straddling style. The result, then, is a musical tapestry of almost criminal brilliance; one which deserves infinite high regard.

Song Choice: [Midlife Crisis]


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