Lateralus, Tool

I think it’s rare when you find yourself particularly moved or impressed by lyrics. There are just a handful of songs that really stand out to me in terms of the thought and consideration that have gone into the lyrics to tie them so perfectly to the music. 

This is a subject I’ve been thinking about for a number of weeks now (I like to procrastinate), and so I decided to write a series of blog posts about songs with fantastic lyrics that really stand out to me, and I’m going to begin with Tool’s Lateralus. 

And what an incredible track it is. With a slow and steady build (with a drum beat that emulates a heart beat at first), it breaks after about a minute into a series of powerful riffs that pull you through the ensuing eight minutes in an all-encompassing spiral of sound.

This is a song that you shouldn’t take for granted. Every detail has been carefully considered and tied together. This song is a real piece of craftsmanship. 

Lateralus is based around the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144), which is a mathematical sequence that appears naturally in biology to create spiral shapes, such as an uncurling fern, the arrangement of a pine cone, or the intricate pattern in the head of a sunflower

This sequence has been fully incorporated into the song; in the first verse, the syllables are 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 5, 13, 13, 8, 5, 3 (see lyrics below). The sequence gets to half way in the verse before ‘spiralling’ back on itself to return to the beginning, before unfurling again. 

The time signatures in the chorus change from 9/8 to 8/8 to 7/8 (987 is the 16th number of the Fibonacci sequence), which also symbolises a spiral. 

The spiral is omnipresent in Lateralus. It’s mentioned explicitly at the end of the song, (“To swing on the spiral,” and “Spiral out”) as well as having the spiral literally written into the very foundations of the music. 

It’s all very clever, and better still it’s a really great track even if you didn’t know anything behind the song.

As for the lyrics themselves, they’re very ‘cosmic’. It might even be considered pretentious if everything else about this track wasn’t so damned cool. What’s it about? My interpretation (and I think the obvious one) is that it’s about ‘unfolding’ yourself and opening up to all the possibilities that are available to you in life and embracing them. Keenan’s singing about relying on impulse and intuition, feeling connected to the world, and letting life take you on whatever journey fate brings. But really, it’s open to the listener’s interpretation. 

Tool aren’t on Spotify, but you can listen to Lateralus via YouTube, or better still, just buy the album (also entitled Lateralus).

Black (1)
then (1)
white are (2)
All I see (3)
In my infancy (5)
Red and yellow then came to be (8)
Reaching out to me (5)
Lets me see. (3)
There is (2)
So (1)
Much (1)
More and (2)
Beckons me (3)
To look through to these (5)
Infinite possibilities. (8)
As below so above and beyond I imagine (13)
Drawn beyond the lines of reason (8)
Push the envelope. (5)
Watch it bend. (3)

Over thinking
Over analysing
Separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition
Missing opportunities and I must
Feed my will to feel my moment
Drawing way outside the lines.

Black
Then
White are
All I see
In my infancy.
Red and yellow then came to be
Reaching out to me
Lets me see
There is
So
Much
More and
Beckons me
To look through to these
Infinite possibilities.

As below so above and beyond I imagine
Drawn outside the lines of reason.
Push the envelope.
Watch it bend.

Over thinking
Over analysing
Separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition leaving
All these opportunities behind.
Feed my will to feel this moment
Urging me to cross the line
Reaching out to embrace the random
Reaching out to embrace whatever may come. 

I embrace my desire to
Feel the rhythm
To feel connected
Enough to step aside and
Weep like a willow
To feel inspired
To fathom the power
To witness the beauty
To bathe in the fountain
To swing on the spiral
To swing on the spiral
To swing on the spiral
Of our divinity and
Still be a human. 

With my feet upon the ground I lose myself
Between the sounds
And open wide to suck it in
I feel it move across my skin.
I’m reaching up and reaching out
I’m reaching for the random or
Whatever will bewilder me, whatever will bewilder me
And following our will and wind
We may just go where no one’s been
We’ll ride the spiral to the end
And may just go where no one’s been. 

Spiral out.
Keep going...