10 lesser known Tool songs that everyone needs to hear
Tool are one of the biggest cult bands in the world. They don’t have an Enter Sandman or a Paradise City that crosses into the mainstream rock and metal consciousness, but they are perfectly capable of topping album charts and headlining major festivals – as they did at the last full-scale Download to take place back in 2019. There must be some casual listeners out there, but the common perception of a Tool fan is one who is dedicated-bordering-on-obsessive. And when you consider the band’s less-than-prolific official output, involving just five full-length albums, one EP, a demo and a boxset over the course of three decades, there are plenty of Tool fans who will be familiar with pretty much everything the band have ever released.
There are still a few semi-hidden gems, though, and songs that are perhaps overlooked; that have been largely omitted from the band’s live set and just generally aren’t as well-known as staples like Stinkfist and Schism. And there will also be fans who haven’t completed such a deep-dive into the band’s past. The worldwide success of 2019’s Fear Inoculum suggests that Tool are still picking up fans who weren’t even born when debut full-length Undertow came out.
Here, then, are 10 (comparatively) lesser-known Tool songs that are definitely worth checking out…
Maynard’s Dick (Salival, 2000)
Maynard’s Dick is perhaps the best illustration of Tool’s cult status: a hidden track from an odds-and-ends boxset that is infamous amongst the dedicated fanbase and virtually unknown outside it. Tucked away at the end of LAMC, the song rides a lazy, sunny afternoon ’90s grunge vibe and is distinctly un-Tool-like in its relative simplicity. It also contains the immortal lines, ‘Would you like to glide on / Glide a mile six inches at a time on Maynard’s dick?’ Ending on a belch and a welter of crashing instrumentation it’s clearly a joke but, as so often with Tool, you’re never quite sure at whose expense.
LAMC (Salival, 2000)
While we’re here, LAMC itself is also worth a listen – although it’s unlikely to make it onto your playlists unless you’re feeling particularly masochistic. Also known as L.A. Municipal Court, the track features a jarring and gradually accelerating industrial rhythm atop an automated phone tree directing the caller through a Kafka-esque maze of choices. Vocalist Maynard James Keenan told Farmclub.com that it was a reaction to the official red tape accompanying life in Los Angeles. “Most people who’ve ever been in that situation can relate to that song, and I think we did a pretty good job of capturing the tedium that goes along with that, to the point where people go, ‘That was a great song. It really summed up that feeling, and I never want to hear that song again,’” he laughed.
Sweat (Opiate, 1992)
Opiate also featured a hidden track but the psychedelic waft of The Gaping Lotus Experience wasn’t the band’s most interesting moment. Instead we’ll go with opener Sweat from the band’s debut EP. It isn’t unknown exactly, but it didn’t have the impact of Hush (which was accompanied by the band’s first-ever music video) and certainly isn’t one of the band’s most recognisable songs. It was, however, a superb statement of intent, packed with sinuous twisting rhythms, a pummelling drive and the sort of poetically opaque lyrics the world would soon become familiar with.
Revolution – Tool & Rage Against The Machine (unreleased)
There are a number of tracks doing the digital peer-to-peer rounds that are claimed to be unfinished or unreleased Tool tracks with varying degrees of credibility. Revolution, also known as You Can’t Kill The Revolution, is very much the real deal. A collaboration between Tool and Rage Against The Machine, it saw two of the most influential bands of the 90s team up for the Judgment Night soundtrack. It was never finished but a rough and ready version surfaced online and shows what might have been. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Judgment Night executive producer Happy Walters recalled: “Tom [Morello] was really into it. It was more the Tool side that flaked and never decided. I think it was something where they just didn’t get it together. It was politics. They never really turned it in, and then Tool got weird and their label got weird, and we were running out of time. I mean, those two bands at the time, were massive. So that was one of the bummers of not getting that.”
Jerk-Off (72826, 1991)
Tool resisted putting their material onto streaming sites for a long time, but in 2019 they relented and the first thing they put up was the much-sought after demo 72826 (‘Satan’ on a telephone keypad, apparently). All the songs would later resurface elsewhere but the vicious Jerk-Off had only previously been available as a live version on the Opiate EP. Any version of this serrated riff-driven killer of a song is frankly worth its weight in gold, but the original demo is worth checking out if only to see how Maynard nails those screams towards the end.
Divorced – Tool & Melvins (The Crybaby, 2000)
Although it appeared on the Melvins’ album Crybaby and was written by the sludge kings’ drummer Dale Crover, Divorced was a full-blown collaboration rather than a fleeting guest appearance. The close to 15-minute trawl is largely driven by the lurching rhythms and features an epic duel between Dale and Tool’s Danny Carey – as you might expect from a song penned by a drummer. It also features a bizarre phone conversation that appears to feature Maynard discussing a woman with a voice ‘like a modem’. Tool wrote in the sleeve notes: “What can we say about these generous monsters? They have consistently been models of integrity professionally and personally, no matter how big they get; an example a lot of bands could learn from. Dale came up with the song, we recorded it, and they slithered away with the tape. The man-love we feel for these gents knows no bounds.”
4° (Undertow, 1993)
Although debut full-length Undertow ended up triple-Platinum, it’s still largely a jumping-off point and the band would evolve considerably over the next four albums. Songs like Sober and Prison Sex remain Tool essentials but there are also some fantastic album tracks like 4° that are perhaps overlooked. Starting on a semi-acoustic strum it soon ushers in a hypnotic riff and ebb-and-flow dynamic. It’s certainly not as convoluted or mind-fucking as many of their songs, but 4° is an understated gem.
Intension (10,000 Days, 2006)
10,000 Days as a whole was a calmer, more reflective album than its predecessors and Intension was the ultimate expression of the band’s foray in that direction. A meandering ambient soundscape, it doesn’t provide an immediate rush and lacks the visceral power of much of their material. Give it a chance, though, and you’ll be carried away by the soothing waters as hippified guitars swirl with only the slightest sharp edge and Maynard delivers the lyrics via a softly-spoken chant.
Ticks & Leeches (Lateralus, 2001)
If Intension saw Tool at their softest, Ticks & Leeches was the band at their spikiest and most abrasive. Underpinned by some amazing drumming from Danny Carey, it’s eight minutes of uneasy listening, peppered with screams and jagged guitar as Maynard yells, ‘I hope you’re choking / I hope you choke on this.’ It’s distinctive but divisive – some fans love it while others find it lacking in subtlety – and a song that the band have very rarely played live
No Quarter (Salival, 2000)
Led Zeppelin are a difficult band to cover well, but Tool nailed it with a dark, atmospheric rendering of the epic song that became the centrepiece of the Led Zep live show. The spacey bass takes centre stage in the Tool version but every member plays their part in pulling off one of the best live covers captured on tape. Interestingly, Maynard once revealed in an interview that they nearly went for Nobody’s Fault But Mine instead, the Blind Willie Johnson song that Led Zeppelin reinterpreted themselves.
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