The Worst of Pitchfork: Tool – “Lateralus” Re-Review
For the past 25 years, Pitchfork Magazine garnered a reputation for being musical outsiders. In its history, Pitchfork has aided the rise of several indie bands, most notably Arcade Fire. Pitchfork’s nearly perfect 9.7 review of Arcade Fire’s 2004 masterpiece “Funeral” is a big reason why the album gained so much notoriety, which in turn propelled the band’s career to the top of the charts.
However, the publication has also made a name for itself as shameless contrarians and overly pretentious music reviewers. This has manifested itself in many negative album reviews that many in the music community see as overly critical. These are the reviews that the CommRadio Arts & Entertainment team will be looking at, judging whether Pitchfork was fair in its harsh assessment, or correct in it.
Pitchfork’s review of Tool’s album “Lateralus” is perhaps the most infamous review in the publication’s history. While fans and (most) critics alike see the 2001 album as Tool’s best, writer Brent DiCrescenzo gave the progressive metal LP a 1.9 out of 10.
DiCrescenzo wrote of the album “Now, with the early new century demanding "opuses," Tool follows suit. The problem is, Tool defines "opus" as taking their "defining element" (wanking sludge) and stretching it out to the maximum digital capacity of a compact disc.”
The writer then, for some reason, goes on to tell an anecdote from the perspective of a Tool fan, who he has named Crispin Fubert. Fubert sees the album as a masterpiece, as many Tool fans do. DiCrescenzo, in the perspective of his imaginary character, writes lines such as, “I feel like this record was made just for me by super-smart aliens or something,” and “It’s the best Tool album because it’s the longest… there is more emotion on that album than would be on 30 Weezer albums.”
DiCrescenzo’s overly harsh and obscure review seems to have one goal in mind: to anger Tool fans, who, like Pitchfork, have a reputation of being pompous and overly pretentious. This is likely why DiCrescenzo decided to make the majority of his review a parody from the perspective of a less-than-intelligent Tool fan who finds “Lateralus” to be an extremely complex and groundbreaking album.
Pitchfork’s review of “Lateralus” has very little critique of the album; rather it is a critique of Tool’s fanbase and an attempt to wind up a group of people who DiCrescenzo sees as overly pretentious and easily angered.
Regardless, DiCrescenzo finds “Lateralus” to be an example of Tool overstretching its sound compared to previous works in an attempt to make something that is half-metal album and half-rock opera with little substance behind it.
This claim holds little weight. While “Lateralus” is Tool’s longest album at 78:51, it only beats out the band’s previous work “Ænima” by about a minute. Tool was a band known for complex progressive metal songs reaching seven or eight minutes long before “Lateralus.”
In addition, the album is quite interesting and enjoyable. Even for non-metal fans, the lyrics and the grasps that Tool has for building sound and creating eight-minute tracks that build in suspense can be easily appreciated.
Tracks such as “Schism” and “The Grudge” exemplify this and are wonderful examples of complex and progressive metal songs that DiCrescenzo seems to find needlessly long and uninteresting.
In conclusion, “Lateralus” is not a 1.9 out of 10, far from it. But to bash DiCrescenzo for rating this album so low would be missing the point.
DiCrescenzo scored the album so low in order to use his platform to anger a fanbase that he found easily annoyed and unlikable. This review came out in 2001, a time when Pitchfork was half-music critic and half-internet troll. To get angry over this review would achieve what DiCrescenzo set out to do. Almost 20 years in the future, this review, while notorious, did nothing to hurt the reputation of “Lateralus,” which is seen as one of the decade’s greatest metal releases.
Jim Krueger is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Jim Krueger is a senior from West Hartford, CT, majoring in broadcast journalism and a minor in Italian. He is the Arts and Entertainment Director, who writes album reviews and hosts the Nittany Record Club.
At Penn State, Jim has worked as a sports reporter for The Daily Collegian, and is currently an executive producer at PSNTV, whose work has also been featured on the Centre Daily Times and the York Times News.