A review of Tool’s latest suggests, once again, that there are reasons that artists get to select their medium of expression — and why there are those who elect not to follow the march of technology: Critic’s Notebook: Tool’s ‘10,000 Days’ Recalls the Good Old Days of CD’s
Tool’s current single, a six-minute marvel called “Vicarious,” reached No. 2 on Billboard’s modern rock chart, but it isn’t the kind of song that might cross over to pop radio. And while other bands are teaching fans the joys of legal downloading, Tool is one of the few current big-name acts that refuse to sell through iTunes. (Others include Kid Rock, Linkin Park and Radiohead.)
So “10,000 Days” (Volcano/Zomba/Sony BMG) is purely a CD, though it’s a pretty elaborate one. Along with those 77 minutes of music, you get a wraparound hardcover case; the booklet is printed stereoscopically, with lenses built into the cover. This is the kind of CD that makes a $9.99 download seem like a rip-off.
We have grown used to hearing musicians and listeners pine for the glory days of the vinyl LP. (That warm, crackling sound! Those 288 square inches of blank canvas!) And a generation that came of age in the 1980’s has found ways to mourn the demise of the lowly cassette. (Read all about it in the book “Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture,” edited by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.) Now, listening to Tool’s glorious, immersive new album, it’s possible to mourn the tragic demise â€” is there any other kind? â€” of the CD age. Remember the compact disc, with its finicky packaging, its bloated running time, its charming vulnerability to scratches?
Certainly “10,000 Days” evokes a bygone time when musicians expected listeners to swallow their albums whole (unlike vinyl records, which required constant flipping), and in order (unlike MP3’s, which encourage constant flitting). In the CD age musicians learned to add their own diversions â€” skits, interludes, collaborations â€” to keep listeners refreshed on a journey that might last nearly 80 minutes. In “10,000 Days,” the band’s first album since the 2001 masterpiece “Lateralus,” labyrinthine songs are cushioned by intros and outros and digressions. (One of these, “Lipan Conjuring,” is 71 seconds of chants.) Unlike LP’s or MP3’s, CD’s encourage musicians to take their time.
[…] The interstitial music found on CD’s also presents a challenge to the iTunes model. (The online store was briefly flummoxed, a few years ago, by a Sonic Youth album track called “Silence”; shoppers eventually won the right to pay 99 cents for 63 seconds of nothing.) In the case of Tool a number of fans have complained online that the new album contains too much atmospheric filler and not enough full-bore songs. No wonder the band doesn’t want consumers to cherry-pick.
[…] Musical formats inevitably change the way music is made. The rise of LP’s led musicians to think in terms of twinned sets. And despite its seeming formlessness, the CD has shaped music too, although it was harder to appreciate that before MP3’s came along. (Nothing helps you love an old product like a new one.) Most people listen to the songs near the start of a CD the most often, and the most intently. A well-organized CD finds subtle ways to accommodate this tendency, and to reward it.