Song of the Week: Tool Fans Celebrate Surviving to Hear the Epic “Fear Inoculum”

This week's New Sounds also includes Lana Del Rey, Ariana Grande, and Slipknot

Tool, photo by Travis Shinn
Tool, photo by Travis Shinn

Each week we break down our favorite song, highlight our honorable mentions, and wrap them all up with other staff recommendations into a New Sounds playlist just for you. Be sure to subscribe here. This week’s top song is Tool’s “Fear Inoculum”.

For all of the legions of loyal Tool fans, the long wait is finally over. Not only has the prog-metal band released their first single since 2006’s 10,000 Days, but they’ve also made their full discography available on streaming services for the first time ever. “Fear Inoculum”, the song, arrives as the first track off of Fear Inoculum, the album, due out August 30th. Over their now 29-year-long career, Tool has amassed a fan base that is probably more consistently enthusiastic than that of any other modern rock band. Especially being that they’ve anticipated the return of Tool for over a decade, it’s not surprising that fans are already clamoring over each other, eking every ounce of meaning that they can out of this 10-minute-long epic. On the subreddit dedicated to the band, it’s equally heartwarming and sobering to see users congratulating each other for staying alive long enough to hear the song. Encapsulating the overall reaction to Tool’s return, one user wrote: “recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing.”

There’s an enigmatic, sometimes overwhelming intensity about Tool that makes them more than a little bit magnetic. To be frank, there just aren’t many groups who would be met with this much excitement after dropping a 10-minute-long song. “Fear Inoculum” is classic Tool, arresting in much the same way they’ve always been, and on it lead vocalist Maynard James Keenan mythologizes a toxic relationship. Whereas many lyricists seem to reach for greater truths in the minutiae of everyday life, Keenan opts to recontextualize the ordinary using language that’s decidedly spiritual, biological, and technical. “Immunity, long overdue/ Contagion, I exhale you,” he opens the song, later closing “Unveil now, lift away/ I see you runnin’/ Deceiver chased away/ A long time comin’”, presumably having conquered the toxic presence that hangs over most of “Fear Inoculum”’s narrative.

–Sean Lang


Jay Som – “Nighttime Drive”

Jay Som’s, AKA Melina Duterte’s, sophomore album, Anak Ko, is due later this month. This week we were graced with her third single, “Nighttime Drive”, along with a bizarre, new video, too. In very Jay Som fashion, “Nighttime Drive” has an effective tenderness to it. The lo-fi, ethereal track’s melody is accompanied by introspective and semi-ironic lyrics that create an almost painfully self-aware and dismissive, daydreamy, and lazy summer-daze feeling. She sings, “Been watching hours pass/ Inside cars with no glass/ Constructing shallow dreams of/ Shoplifting at the Whole Foods.” Sounds like long summer days and sticky summer nights growing up in a small town to me. The song ends with a full string section, creating the track’s climatic point. The video for “Nighttime Drive” is directed by Han Hale and has a weird X-Files vibe, complete with aliens, black trench coats, and crop circles. The video, along with the track, leaves you feeling a little disoriented. –Samantha Lopez

Ariana Grande – “boyfriend” w/Social House

“Boyfriend” is for anyone who has ever had a crush on their best friend. The song also has a hilarious music video. The unsurprisingly catchy track reunites Ariana Grande with her longtime collaborators Social House and fixates on that specific “oh shit” moment when one realizes they feel a little more than they’d like for their supposed platonic friend. The songs starts with “I’m a motherfuckin’ train wreck,” and Grande belts out in the first verse: “And I might not be the one for you/ But you ain’t about to have no boo.” Which honestly, same. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those suppressed romantic feelings that twist into jealousy that only rears its ugly head as soon as someone else starts flirting with your crush, right? –Samantha Lopez

Slipknot – “Birth of the Cruel”

Like Tool, Slipknot often traffic in the spiritual, and “Birth of the Cruel” is no exception. The first verse opens with a reference to the disciple who betrayed Jesus in the Bible. “I’m just a Judas, lookin’ for a silver line,” sings bandleader Corey Taylor, casually painting himself as the villain of whatever story is about to follow. The metal group’s sixth studio album, We Are Not Your Kind, came out Friday. –Sean Lang

IDLES – “I Dream Guillotine”

UK punk band IDLES made waves with their sophomore album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, which came out last year. “I Dream Guillotine” finds the band as explicitly political as ever. “There’s no such thing as a broken home/ Tell that to the front line, the bread line, the welfare line/ The factory line,” vocalist Joe Talbot barks, indicting the blatant ignorance of the bourgeoisie over railing guitars and resonant percussion. –Sean Lang

Click ahead for more song picks and our exclusive playlist.

Pivot Gang – “SoHo Freestyle”

Although the west side Chicago collective known as Pivot Gang have been around since 2012, their first official full-length didn’t arrive until earlier this year. This past week, the SABA-led group dropped the Two Piece Tour Pack, a confident postscript to You Can’t Sit with Us. On “SoHo Freestyle”, the crew’s rappers take turns “freestyling” over a saccharine, nostalgic beat featuring grainy strings and jubilant horns. –Sean Lang

Ceremony – “Presaging the End”

When Ceremony formed in 2005 in Rohnert Park, California, their mission was straightforward: rip fast, rip hard. I mean, they originally called themselves Violent World”=. In the 14 years since then, their sound has picked up more nuance, but “Presaging the End” is as bleak as ever. Arriving as the third single ahead of their sixth album, In the Spirit World Now, the track is an obliquely bleak reminder of the transient nature of beauty, happiness, and pretty much everything good. “You’ll always be more alive yesterday,” Ross Farrar sings over surprisingly bouncy guitars.

Lana Del Rey – “Looking for America”

In response to the two mass shootings that took place last weekend in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, Lana Del Rey released a new song on Instagram. The song debuted in an emotional post where the singer wrote she came home early from a trip to Montecito and asked Jack Antonoff to immediately join her in the studio. The new track, titled “Looking for America”, begins with the description of a scenic road trip through California where Rey quivers through her lyrics, singing “pulled over to watch the children play in the park/ We used to only worry for them after dark.” Later in the song, she sings: “I used to go to drive-ins and listen to the blues/ So many things that I think twice about before I do.”

In a caption for the video, Del Rey writes, “Now I know I’m not a politician and I’m not trying to be so excuse me for having an opinion — but in light of all of the mass shootings and the back-to-back shootings in the last couple of days, which really affected me on a cellular level, I just wanted to post this video.” All proceeds for the new track will go to the Gilroy Garlic Festival Victims Relief Fund, the El Paso Victims Relief Fund, and the Dayton Foundation. –Samantha Lopez

Djo (Joe Keery) – “Chateau (Feel Alright)”

Stranger Things star Joe Keery is multifaceted. When he isn’t battling against the Demagorgens, the actor turns musician — first as a past member of the Chicago psych band Post Animal and now under the moniker Djo. His new track, “Chateau (Feel Alright)”, follows the release of Keery’s debut single, “Roddy”, last month. “Chateau” is a slow-burning piece of dream/psychedelic pop. The track showcases a warped melody and Keery lustfully singing “It’s a decision that I’m glad that I made/ I’m still not certain that it happened at all/ I just can’t recall/ So I turn back the time/ I’m at the chateau and I feel alright.” Don’t miss this sensual track. –Samantha Lopez

Megan Thee Stallion – “Hot Girl Summer” ft. Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign

In case you didn’t already know, summer 2019 has been dubbed “Hot girl summer,” and in case you don’t know what that means, it’s basically owning your own happiness, partying with your squad, and not giving a damn about no man. We’re already in August and it’s hard to accept summer is nearing the end, but leave it to Megan Thee Stallion to make sure we go out with a bang. Her latest track, appropriately titled “Hot Girl Summer”, teams her up with Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign and is the perfect anthem for the perfect motto and 2019 mood. Take a listen to the unshakable summer hit below. –Samantha Lopez

Our New Sounds Playlist