Poster Children released Tool of the Man in 1993 under Sire records. In this album the band presents an overall gloomier atmosphere with darker shades and textures than the previous releases. Where Flower Plower feels more exploratory and Daisychain Reaction dives into grunge and its grand guitar swells, Tool of the Man is more introspective and expertly uses the established sound of Poster Children to dive into vulnerable subjects like loneliness and dread.
As a result it also feels like one of the most expressive of their albums by far, as each instrument plays consistently with Rick Valentin’s vocal performance. Each element is so focused and so cohesive, all driven by the song’s emotion. Indeed, the band feels more in sync than ever before.
Don’t get me wrong, this record is still extremely loud and heavy. “Tommyhouse” is crammed with pounding riffs that feel strained and tense, making it a menacing and claustrophobic experience. “Blatant Dis” is sharp and abrasive, but clearly defined in its politically furious tone. A song grimy with punk-attitude that could very well spark the emotions of the time. But one great addition in Tool Of the Man is the band’s confidence to dive into deeper emotions where it didn’t seem to be in focus at all in previous albums.
“In My Way” captures this completely. It’s one of those rock songs that feels sentimental, with a slow-burning chug that carries a heavy weight on its shoulder. In this song Valentin talks about the struggle to express yourself over society’s prevailing norms: “Building a character out of your character / Trying to hide in a stereotype / Honesty has been replaced by a neutral display”. “Idiot Show” is another loud cut with great weight to it. So much so that the band sounds more in line with Black Sabbath than The Smashing Pumpkins, a direct link between proto-metal and alt- rock if you will. And rightly so, as this song talks about a toxic relationship : “Friends like these need enemies I don’t need you Do you need me?”
Another highlight is the plodding and lonely “Three Bullets”. Valentin sings quietly at first, accompanied by subtle riffs and muted drums, but it’s then interspersed by loud sections that suggest a cycle of calm and stormy weather. Everything feels heavy and on the brink of breaking down: “I lose control of my arms and legs Life’s been replaced by a dull ache”.
Tool of the Man is Poster Children’s deeper and more contemporary sounding album to date. It is also more thought-provoking and empathetic. For those looking for rock that channels these deep emotions without toning down the volume, this is a good one for reference.