I have come at Tool backwards from the very beginning of when I started listening to them: The first time I ever listened to a full album was 10,000 Days. When I discovered I liked them I got Lateralus. Then once I finally discovered I liked Lateralus, I got Aenima. This is relevant (for my review) because when I first heard these two albums, all I could think is “well, it’s okay but it’s not [insert next album here].” And I find myself having the same initial reaction to Undertow and I’m annoyed by that because I know that, with a few more listens, I will probably like it a lot. Maybe not as much as their other records, but more than I do today.
So that leaves me with evaluating this more as something I respect and want to like than something I like or love. (At least until that time when I discover it’s awesome.) So, here goes:
From this early record, which in some ways feels like the record of a young band (see the “bonus” track” as evidence), Tool’s sound is very much their own. I cannot think of another band – especially another band releasing music in 1993 – that found this particular combination of really loud alternative rock with such odd time signatures and spacey elements. Sure, on Undertow it’s not as polished a sound, and I can’t help but think that Justin Chancellor’s arrival allowed the band to get better at the proggier side of their music, but it’s hard to deny that everything about them that is appealing is already present on this debut.
And so I find myself thinking that this is a significant record, and a good one, but I haven’t come to love yet. I’m sure I will in time but right now it’s more one of these things where I know something is good (except for the bonus track) and unique but where I’m not about to listen to it all time. That will likely change.
All lyrics written by Maynard James Keenan, unless otherwise noted; all music composed by Adam Jones, Danny Carey and Paul D’Amour.
- “Intolerance” 4:53
- “Prison Sex” 4:56
- “Sober” 5:06
- “Bottom” (feat. Henry Rollins) Lyrics by Keenan, Henry Rollins; 7:14
- “Crawl Away” 5:30
- “Swamp Song” 5:31
- “Undertow” 5:22
- “4°” 6:03
- “Flood” 7:46
- “Disgustipated” 15:47
- Maynard James Keenan – vocals
- Adam Jones – guitar, sitar on “4°”
- Paul D’Amour – bass guitar
- Danny Carey – drums
- Henry Rollins – guest vocals on “Bottom”
- Chris Haskett – sledge hammer on “Disgustipated”
- Statik – programming on “Disgustipated”