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

 

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

All-Time (1 of 10)

Recently, I was challenged via my awesome brother (in-law) via Facebook to post one of my all-time favorite albums each day for ten days. WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT IT. That was the harder caveat than actually choosing them. I made a couple of rules:

1) I’d blog about each one of them, because I cannot NOT talk about music.

2) I wouldn’t think too hard, just channel some of my very favorites of all-time. These are the ones I have probably played so much they have wear and tear on the booklets, the cases, the actual CDs.

3) I wouldn’t agonize over any I may have forgotten, or would have chosen “instead of.”

4) I’d write about each one and why it was prolific for me.

So, here goes:

Day One: Counting Crows August and Everything After

I happened to choose this one first. I put it in my car and found it very appropriate that it was a grey, cold and rainy day here in NEPA (Northeastern PA). Seems that Adam Duritz has recurring themes in that album, and others, of rain, grey, Maria, fog, mist, and melancholy. I found myself BLARING my own voice against the speakers in my car as I cruised down I-81 North.

But it all started when “’Round Here” came out. A first radio release in 1994. I ran to the mall (not literally, more like asked Mom to drive me because I was only 12), to purchase this the day it came out. I struggled with depression as an adolescent, not having proper treatment for it later, except for the very addiction that still keeps me alive today—music.

I still want to hire an artist to do a watercolor or oil painting of “Perfect Blue Buildings” highlighting the blue buildings beside the green apple sea…I wanna get me a little, oblivion, baby…try to keep myself away from myself and me.

It’s been said that Duritz suffers from manic-depressive disorder. Somehow, without realizing that back then, I just knew that he and the other Crows were helping me cope with mine. I remember floating in our above ground pool (the prized possession of my youth), listening to this as my brother listened and tapped out the drum beats perfectly. I floated by the tree that shadowed the pool and imagined I was in the green apple sea. Yeah, Adam, I want to get me a little oblivion, too. And I understand what you mean when you are trying to restrain yourself from yourself. That is a concept I think most artists and sufferers of depression (or both) totally get.

“Rain King” was another favorite. I used to dance around my small room until my legs hurt. And then there’s “A Murder of One.” Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….deep breath. If you don’t know, a group of crows is referred to as a “murder of crows.” Interesting how death seemed to hang on the wingspan of this animal that gets a bad rep, right? I always appreciated how that one title indicated loneliness. And even then I didn’t realize I was a great writer…

There’s a part in the middle where I would be dancing and do an interpretive dance which fanned out into a jubilant jump-and-twirl around the two feet wide and six-foot long space by my window, behind my bed. “CHAN-CHAN-CHANGE!!!” I would howl with Duritz as I undulated across my bedroom floor. That song itself felt like a rebirth, and still does, every time I hear it. It is the last track on the album, and a reward for solemn slots like, “Sullivan Street,” and “Raining in Baltimore.”

While it’s true that their first four albums strike my fancy way more than the latter ones, those earlier masterpieces will always help me, guide me, and be a raft on my green apple seas…

Thanks for reading.

Rock on,

Rachael

Mother, My Love Bone is stuck!

Made ya look.  Now, you were probably drawn to the three most important words in that title.  Mother. Love. Bone.  Good.

I don’t believe in coincidences.  Somehow, amid a February spell of depression (or a clinical depression management flare up?), I dutifully picked Mother Love Bone’s Apple from my “special CD shelf.”  I moved my all-time favorites to a shelf of their own.  This shelf is comprised of the mixed tapes (CDs) my husband made for me, all my Pearl Jam albums and sundry recordings, Mother Love Bone’s works, Eddie’s solo stuff, and Smashing Pumpkins’s box set.  Also, two copies of Singles soundtrack.  Yes, two.  I found that, after one play-through, I couldn’t remove it from my car’s CD deck.  No, it wasn’t LITERALLY stuck, but my hands were unable, or unwilling, to eject it from it’s warm place in CD land, located somewhere behind my dashboard.  I must have listened to it for three days straight.  (How’s that for an Easter occurrence?)

I went to teach my creative writing workshop.  A woman, older than I am, read a piece where two of her characters in a club were shouting back and forth during a show:

Character One:”Man, Pearl Jam’s where it’s at!”

Character Two:  “Nah, you’re fulla fuckin’ bullshit, man!  Everyone knows it was all about Mother Love Bone, man!”

Of course, my insides and my smile broadened.  After my workshop, I called my brother.  I never brought up what I had been listening to, until after he recounted talking to a much older, nerdier coworker about music.  “Yeah, dude, I love Pearl Jam,” Jeremy agreed with him.

The dude he was talking to:  “Yeah, but Mother Love Bone?  Holy crap.”

Jeremy, to me, “I know, right?  If Andy had lived…he would have been the most prolific, insanely rocking musician of our time, I think.”

Me, “I love you.”  Well, I didn’t say that immediately, but I know it’s true, whenever I talk to anyone about the music that not only moves me, but saves me.  I feel my chest expand under the press of a February fog of allergies, depression, and shitty weather.  I feel my soul stretch out, smile, and take off for a 5K.

And this is how I feel when Mother!  My Love Bone is stuck.  In fact, as I was playing “car” with my favorite three-year-old (not mine, but I get visitation rights! i.e. I’m her part-time nanny), she picked the album by happenstance, after a week of me listening to it non-stop.  I had put it back, but she picked it up, and in her cute, toddler treble said, “I wan’…THIS ONE!”  Okay.  Truth.  Her favorite color is purple.  As you may know, the album is heavily imbued with the color, and variations of the shade.

Hence, I put the CD back into my player and there it has stayed for another two-and-a-half listens.  I know that I have articulated many times how alive music makes me feel (Pearl Jam pun welcome).  But I realized many important things this week; rather, I re-realized them.

Going down the road, cruise control, spring-like weather gracing me, I turned the volume up high.  Way higher than I usually do. I could probably sing this album BACKWARDS in perfect pitch.  But I’d rather do what I normally do–which is “car dance.”  Car dancing is when your body can’t help but move in some way to the music you hear.  Sometimes, there’s steering wheel drumming.  Sometimes, there’s what I call interpretive hand-dancing.  This is where I act out the lyrics with my hand, looking to passing cars as though I’m having an emphatic conversation.  And I am.  I converse with my musicians the very same as I would converse with my best friend.  I am happy.  I am free.  I am funny.  I often yell, “Preach it!”  “Tell me more!”  “Sing it, Andy.”  Or “That’s damn right!”  “I’m listening, man, and I know you know that!”

Yeah, I’m still alive.  And I’ve found the very thing that, no, doesn’t “cure” depression, but heals insides of me I ignored.  And that is proper treatment of clinical depression.  Just this week, I posted on Facebook about how one shouldn’t, “be the backup vocalist when you were meant to sing lead.”  This was for myself.  I’m done with the background.  I belong up front. I deserve to be heard.  I shouldn’t be afraid to be heard.  Andy helps me.  What is it about his legacy that makes me feel this way?

The way I car-dance with Mother Love Bone.  (Giving credit to the whole unit, as it should be.)  But I think of Andy’s energy and love and passion for music.  He WAS the music.  He had fears and anxieties just like me, just like the rest of us, but music was his salve, his “cure,” his artistic debt to himself.  He lets me out.  He frees my trapped artist.  And there are never any adequate words to express my gratitude.  “Words and music are my only tools”…and I will use them, Andy, just like you did.  I will use them well.  I would say I wish you could see the legacy you left behind, but I know you do.  And that alone makes me smile contentedly.

See you in the Temple of the Dog, man.

Peace, love, and music.

Rachael

P.S. This post was composed while I was spinning Apple on my turntable.

We’re alright for now…

Perhaps I’ve written more blogs here about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers than any other band/musician–including my beloved Pearl Jam–but there’s a reason for that:  they’re amazing.  And this has been a beautiful and difficult year.  On my “TO SEE BEFORE I DIE LIST” were the following:

Temple of the Dog (July, 2016, still paying interest, don’t care)

R.E.M. (that will probably never happen, since they dis-banded.) sigh

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (July, 2017, thank God.)

Bruce Springsteen (yet to happen; he’s nearby, but I’m broke)

Collective Soul (September 2017)

And, always, again, Pearl Jam and Tool, without a doubt.

Bands that weren’t on my to see before I die list, but I’m ever grateful for seeing them:

Rush

Devin Townsend Project

A Perfect Circle

Smashing Pumpkins (twice, once in the old days before the first break up; got to shake James’ hand; once with Zwan–met Billy!, once with the 2nd formation of SP)

Tori Amos (2013, and I’d do it again, and again, and again…)

Other acts I’ve seen:

Candlebox

Offspring

Firehouse

Duncan Sheik

Ani DiFranco

Quicksand

Queens of the Stone Age

Third Eye Blind

Counting Crows

Goo Goo Dolls

Coldplay

James Brown

Tons of bands I saw during festivals…

Lots of live, local bluegrass

An assortment of local bands

BUT

I got to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on their farewell…a last hurrah…and it was incredible.  Just writing that sentence made me a little weepy.  I was listening to Full Moon Fever today, and, nowadays, when I hear him, I talk to him.  During “Alright for Now” I always smile.  I know he’s up there, rocking out, still, with all of the other greats that went before.

And sometimes, I don’t feel so sad.  In numerous interviews I’ve watched over the years, one thing was clear:  Tom Petty always wanted to be a rock and roll musician, and that’s what he was, what he devoted his life to, and that…that’s amazing.  Yeah, he died at only 66.  But you know?  You could die older and a lot more miserable.  He went out doing exactly what he loved, and it was as if the universe said, alright, Tom.  You’ve done your work here.

As for the rest of us, we still have work to do.  What, if you were like young Mr. Petty, is your heart devoted to, no matter how improbable?  I want you to think about that.  Make it yours.  Tom did.  As for the present, I guess we’re alright for now.

Thank you, Tom.

Rock on,

Rachael