Inoculated by Tool

After more than a decade, devout Tool fans have been rewarded with a unique album that has been worth the wait. Wait, I know, you’ve heard the criticisms.  Some that I have heard are: “it’s not HEAVY enough.”  “I waited 13 years for this?” and “Why do I want to hear birds chirping? Play music!”

To them, I thumb my nose. Or maybe even extend my middle finger, because that would be heavier, like Tool, right?

I feel these critics have either not given themselves enough repeats of the album, or not gotten AT ALL that it, much like The Who’s “Tommy,” is an eccentric concept album that can be best appreciated when listened to from start to finish.

We got a sneak preview of the album’s opening title track, “Fear Inoculum” and for most of us, we rose like excited carbonation to the top of the 13-year abyss we’ve been sinking in. Yes, we got A Perfect Circle in between. “But Tool,” you’d silently pray. as another year passed. “Tell me they’re not done.”

No, it’s not as “heavy” but it is heavy, perhaps more in a metaphorical way. Some of my favorite tracks are “Pneuma” (Track 2) and “7empest,” appropriately, track 7. Aforementioned complainers can find their heaviness here, in the final track, crossing over the 12-minute barrier. “Pneuma” employs a staccato beat that makes the very chemical parts in your brain bounce like an enthusiastic mosh pit dancer.

In case you’re wondering, “Pneuma” means spirit. This will help you make a greater connection to the prolific lyrics contained within. And, speaking of spirits, my spirit, and the spirits of many, have been uplifted by the new album, and, what else? Hmm…oh yeah, THE TOUR. I’ll see you in Atlantic City, if you’re amongst the faithful Tool community.

For all listeners, new or classic: don’t be inoculated by others’ commentary, not even mind. Decide for yourself; but give it time.

Be well, and rock on,

Rachael

P.S. The ONLY critique I have is that the amazing case with visualization and music does not have a headphone jack. That is all.

Unsung Throes

I’ve had this blog for awhile now, and I know I’m not faithful in its writing. I don’t know why. It’s one of my life’s greatest joys to share my musical musings with the world at large.  Or, at least, my few faithful readers. So, thank you, readers. It’s been said that a writer’s greatest joy is getting published. I’m published, and that’s not the case. Sure, I’m proud that people are reading my work, that I can hold my eight-year effort of a memoir in my hands…(I’m a tactile person, what can I say?) But it’s not true that being published is a writer’s greatest joy, and my writer friends will tell you the same. Every time. A writer’s greatest joy is just BEING READ. Knowing you’re being read, and enjoyed, is more cathartic than being published. Admittedly, a lot of times, you need to be published for people to read your work. In a sense, this blog is a “publication” of my work.

And, back to that. I’m being read. Thank you. And why is this more important to me than people reading an intimate memoir of my weird body and growing struggles as a young adult? Because music is what buoyed me through it all. Music is what makes my heart pound, my spirit jump out of my flesh. It’s what makes my clumsy ass try to headbang while I’m on the treadmill at Planet Fitness. It’s what makes me unafraid to belt lyrics out back and forth to my mother while grocery shopping. People will either smile, sing along, or look at us with a frightened curiosity. So be it. Music is my soul’s language, and I’m not afraid to admit that I like anything that might seem “uncool.” I am who I am, and music will always make me be that way.

I can blare 80s pop hits and act stupid. I can sing my heart out to Kenny Rogers (okay, okay, he was mom’s thing, and I like a various amount of old country because of mom). I can headbang to Soundgarden on the treadmill (not well). I can do hand sign interpretive dancing in the car at a stoplight to Hamilton. And I can go into a complete, meditative coma listening to Tool. Except for the heavy shifts, which I usually lean forward and punch invisible things.

And I started this blog a long time ago, in the hopes that it would help me meet the love of my life, because, if he got the music the way I did, then he’d probably get me. He did, and there have been differences, of course, but we’re not talking about that right now. Besides, he’s a music snob.

I’m not.

So, why did I choose the name for this blog? Well, I’m a creative type, and I’d like to say the name just came to me; essentially, it did. But one day, while listening to SiriusXM’s Lithium channel (because I live in the 90s, and I’m okay with that), I heard Helmet’s “Unsung” and remembered when my brother said, “Dude, you gotta check these motherfuckers out, this video is so bad ass.” Or something like that.

The idea that something is “Unsung.” Well, let me tell you about it. When crippling and untreated, improperly diagnosed depression reigned on me, I stopped singing. My voice became raspy. Worse, my CD player became dusty. I didn’t even–I hate to admit this–listen to Pearl Jam–who very well could have saved me from my plummet. To be unsung is to not live your life, to not let the song in your heart free, to compromise, to settle, to become silent. It’s terrible. I’ve been there, and I slip on the edge of the abyss of that from time to time. But I have an army of music, and an army of loved ones, who reach out and keep me tethered to myself, my sanity, my life, and my “song.”

Throes. A pang or spasm. I like spasm, because it’s much like what happens when I get hyper-stimulated about music and want to talk about it animatedly in short bursts of voice that are half-knowledge/half-dorky-ass-fan.

And so, in closing, I’d like to say, thanks, Helmet, for making a song that would later subconsciously influence a really bad ass name for a music blog.  And thank you, dear readers and music fans alike, for continuing to listen these musical, at one time, before you clicked my url, “unsung” throes.

Be well and rock on,

Rachael

And, they deserve a listen:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBfygUiS50g

 

Don’t PANIC! It’s just a punctuation mark…

Driving around listening to SiriusXM the other day, I had to laugh.  The DJ, like everyone else, said, in one flowing tone, “…and we have up next PanicattheDisco…”

My brother once brought this up:  You shouldn’t say it like that.  Clearly, the band put the exclamation point there for a reason.  This is a blog you have to read aloud.  For example, say this:  “PANIC!  at the disco.”  That’s how the band, I assume, wanted their name to be pronounced.  Now, I could just be a grammarian, but when I see a strong punctuation mark like that, I assume that it’s only natural to give that word that precedes it its due emphasis.

Of course, my brother did an over-exaggerated show of this example, but when I heard the DJ say it all smooth like one word, it gave me pause.  I’m not even a huge fan of the band (they are good; don’t hate me) but I wondered how often people–even huge fans of huge bands–take language for granted.

The hardest language to learn in English.  American English.  I’d bet Mandarin Chinese is a close tie–but with all our homonyms and homilies and cliches…we are a difficult language to learn, if we didn’t learn it from birth.

Consider this:  Years after Live debuted their smash success album Throwing Copper, the band was receiving another award and quietly, a band member stepped up to the microphone and said, after his due thanks, “Oh, and our band’s name rhymes with “give.”

What made the first person say it wrong?  Why did all of the world follow suit without a second thought?  “…and that was Live (pronounced like “give”) with I, Alone…” you’d hear no DJ say, ever.

It’s pretty funny to imagine that Aerosmith might have wanted to be called “A-Row-smith” or that Pearl Jam might have wanted to be called “P. Earl Jam,” but “even soooo” (get it?)

And one more thing, do you think Trent Reznor shudders every time a fan around the world refers to his magnificent one-man act as “NIN” (rhyming with “pin”), instead of “Nine Inch Nails”?

Moreover, do you think there will be audiophiles such as myself with a penchant for grammar, humor, and the English language that muse on random topics such as these for your amusement?

I hope so.
Be well and rock on,

 

Rachael

In the Meantime…

Y’ever have one of those days/weeks/months (hopefully not years) where it seems there’s an avalanche of life issues that crumble, initiating a landslide of mountainous debris that plows you down and buries you?  Great!  (Well, not really, of course), but it means you understand, or can at least empathize with how I’ve been feeling in the last two weeks of my life.

We’re moving; it’s an experiment.  We’re moving to a beautifully wooded area, into a 24-foot camper and building my husband’s dream house.  Only it’s been torrential downpours reminiscent of the Seattle I have yet to see.  I’ve been “off my meds” for two weeks; the side effects of that were far worse than any way I’ve ever felt in my entire life.  And, lastly, ladies, you will understand:  I’m hormonal.  The kind where you feel like all those repressed Victorian women who wanted to—or did–put stones in their pockets and take a slow walk out into a deep river.

And I’m cleaning and I have back pain issues and I feel like someone blew up one of those giant, bouncy balls that kids can sit on a festivals…and put it in my stomach.  I cry at random.  I yell at my husband.  Being a woman is fun.

But, I have this awesome ghetto set up in my 2002 Toyota Camry:  it’s SiriusXM, and it has my most beloved station, Lithium.  My car isn’t advanced enough for auxiliary connection, so I situate an iPod docking station (that resets itself each time I turn the car off/on).  I use a remote to change the setting because the top buttons of the docking station no longer work.  But it’s glorious.

I don’t need anti-depressants, thank you.  I am taking CBD oil and it has changed my life.  But more importantly than that, I can escape to my 90s safe house.  “Mornings with Madison” on Lithium changes the whole scope of the day.  I love her. #radiomadison I imagine she is what I would have been if I had pursued radio after my college radio days; funny, snarky, and sending out my favorite salvation songs to a campus where no one was listening, except my friends.

I don’t feel so isolated, though sometimes I feel there isn’t an overwhelming population for which 90s Alternative and Grunge is their salvation–there is more than one would suspect, as I have learned in my Seattle Grunge private Facebook group (thank you, Jodi Ross), where I can go without negative haters making stupid comments.  The world needs less negativity.  But in my car, half awake and raging with emotion and stress and fatigue and discontent and delirious laughter and, sometimes, unexpected tears, I know that I am not alone.  It’s like The Church of Madison, and there are plenty like me, doing the same thing, going through similar things, hanging onto our very salvation, and Madison is a conduit for that, the clergywoman, if you will.

(Breath, and a…oh, reach the door…)

This was a super-long introduction to the highlight of my day, but thanks for reading.   Writers, right?  We just want to be heard.  Okay, let’s get to it:

Madison read a mini-letter of gratitude (read: tweet) from a listener who hates her job but expressed that hearing her show was the best part of her morning on the way to said hated job.  And then, she played Spacehog’s “In the Meantime.”  Something about this moment, this choice of song woke me out of my depressive coma and launched me into fumbling for the remote blindly (because of course, I’m driving safely), and cranking the iPod docking station louder than love. The anticipation of the loud “ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooh ooooooh” intro created a child-like excitement within me.  (Yes, I timed out the ooo part so it matches the song, go ahead, you know you want to sing it, or else you already tested me for correctness.)

In my allergy-rasped voice, I belted them out.  Oh, that bass.  That sweet, driving, jumping bass!  That authentic 90s movement.  Delicious to my ears.  And then…after stop-light head nodding and steering-wheel drumming, I turn into the rural high school where I’ve been subbing for bread crumbs whilst I weep over my three degrees at night–I park the car, notice a dude next to me, getting out of his car and looking at me as though my radio is too loud, and he’s either intrigued or annoyed, and I don’t care–I continue, leaving the volume where it is, probably blowing the speakers of a pre-owned iPod docking station…and then, the most beautiful thing happens:  the very Ben Folds-ish piano outro.  That does NOT get interrupted at all, not even one nanosecond, by the DJ.  And life is okay again, and I am okay again, and tears of relief and exhaustion spill down my cheeks as I cut the engine, straighten my explosion of humidity-treated hair, and turn to face the strange, but I am reassured now that I am not alone in this.

In the meantime, turn it up:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDkhl-CgETg

Thank you, music.

Thank you, Madison (#radiomadison)

Thank you, life.

#twola

#mentalhealthawareness

#musictherapy

Be well, and rock on,

Rachael

P.S. Aside from the actual song, there are 10 musical references in this blog.  None of them were intentional; okay, maybe one or two.  But the others?  Just the nature of how music-infused my DNA is.  See if you can find them.  Send me some comments as you do.

 

Are you Out of Time?

Day Four of the Ten All-Time Favorites Challenge:

R.E.M.’s Out of Time

This was an album that my brother asked for on cassette the year it came out; neither of us were even ten years old.  I wanted a copy, too, and so it was.  From the time it begins to the time it ends, this album is a pleasurable joyride for the ear drums–starting with the raucous “Radio Song,” and flowing into the big radio hit, “Losing My Religion.”  But consider this:  there are tracks on here, as with most albums, that are complete gems gleaming out of time and sync with the music of it’s era.  “Near Wild Heaven” never got airplay, unless some totally amazing college kid played it on his or her radio DJ slot on public radio somewhere.

Sandwiched between that fourth track of musical jubilance is “End Game,” a mellow tune, perfectly placed between the seemingly happy break-up song, “Near Wild Heaven” and the very well-known “Shiny Happy People.”  Though an overplayed radio hit–this song, much like Chinese leftovers–never gets old.  It was once deemed a song that can inspire happiness on any worst day.  I believe it.  I always close my eyes as I twirl around the living room, imagining I’m in a sunny field of flowers–a field akin to the scenery of the “No Rain” video by Blind Melon.

There is too much to say about the entirety of this album, dark and driving tunes like “Texarkana” and introspective/spoken poetry pieces like “Belong,” keep the record riveting your soul to the very end–and to the rewind you know you’ll partake in.

R.E.M. is still on my “must-see” bucket list of concerts, despite their retirement.  I still have hope that I’m not out of time.

Rock on,

Rachael

P.S.  If you’re wondering, yes, R.E.M. stands for “rapid-eye movement,” that deep state of sleep where one dreams.  The band allegedly chose this blindly by pointing at a random dictionary page!

 

In the…Flesh (and Blood)

Day Three of the Challenge:  Poison’s Flesh and Blood

All-Time/ DAY THREE

Day three of the challenge: Poison’s Flesh and Blood. No, not literally. That would be creepy. It’s hard to define the ten most “favorite,” so sometimes this list verges on “most memorable.” I was 12. Yes, 12, when Mom took me for yet another CD purchase with explicit lyrics. Well, maybe there wasn’t a warning sticker yet, but there certainly was “adult” content. And yet, “Unskinny Bop” was a radio cut, fraught with sexual innuendos, so whatever. I had this adorable African-American friend named Nakesha (does anyone know what happened to her? I miss her laugh), and she was crushing hard on Bret Michaels. Me? Not so much. While I LOVED hair rock, my crushes were all Seattle—brooding, dark and hairy. We were listening to this album in my room, and I remember her loud and hysterical laughter at my analysis of “Unskinny Bop.”

Me: What the hell does that mean, anyway? If you were unskinny, that would mean you were fat, and to bop is to jiggle, and so, does that mean he likes full-figured women?

Nakesha: (Squeal, hand around abdomen, collapsing in theatrical laughter)

Me: (Pretending to jiggle around the room in an awkward, pseudo-sexy dance)

But really. That whole album. I used to put it in my CD Walkman. The opening track always felt like a supernatural night, like you could see UFOs or something. I was heavy into The X-Files and my friend, Susan, and I swore we saw UFOs from time to time.

There’s an untamed badassness to Bret and the Boys that just brings even the nicest of girls to a puddle of purgatory. There’s something about powdered faces and power chords that awakens the soul; and yet, so many people count this “hair-rock” as a “guilty pleasure.” Well, what an appropriate phrase. Men, almost in drag, yet effacing any negative sexual stereotype as the testosterone tickles the synapses.

This is the kind of music your soul just jumps up and down to. It’s no wonder that women sacrifice sweaty tees, spiraling them overhead at overcrowded concert venues…

But I digress. Sometime in my teenhood, I got my wish. I always said it would be amazing to wake up to “Let it Play,” waking to the chorus of a capella voices proclaiming that music must have its place, and entreating those in control of it to “let it play.” Mom got me a stereo with a wake timer that could be programmed to any track of any of the three discs loaded in the dock. I know, it seems archaic now, and I still miss that stereo that my moldy, college basement apartment murdered—but it was a luxury then, for music lovers like me.

But, as the Beatles proclaimed decades before, “Life Goes On.” This is a track that makes you feel just like you’re sitting next to a broken Bret on a colorful Ferris wheel, untouched by the lights and sounds below. Anyone with an aching heart can agree.

Though it was a radio hit, the best track on here is “Something to Believe In.” There’s a beauty in the diversity of hair-rock. When all the power chords take a smoke break, the serious nature slips in. I still can’t hear this song without getting chills or tears, or both. I have always adored church-choir backgrounds—the power behind the front man/woman, especially in a genre that somehow is deliciously “unholy.”

The music is so uplifting, the lyrics so abysmal. They whack you with the truth of Vietnam, homelessness, the imbalance in America’s class system—all with a gorgeous, tinkling piano, and a rising, hair-rock guitar solo. (Shiver.)

I think I could probably talk about this album all day, but it would be better if you’d go and check it out.

Thanks, as always, for listening to my musical musings…after all,It gives me something to believe in…

Rock On,

Rachael