“Speed of life”
Tempo, or speed of the beat, may seem like a weird thing to criticise. After all, great songs come in all different paces. Or do they?
There’s no right and wrong of course, but there is such a thing as feeling dragged back when you want to charge forward. A feeling that the song’s tempo and the song’s inherent energy are somehow out of sync.
Our own inherent energy moves at different speeds depending on how we feel. When we talk about being in the mood for a particular type of music it’s partly because the tempo of that music matches the tempo of our mood. When we’re impatient it can’t be fast enough and when we’re chilling we want it slowed right down. And every mood in between has its own signature pace.
But some tempos just don’t seem to work, in the same way that some colours aren’t pleasing. I often find I can’t get into a song that I would otherwise love purely because it’s too slow for a fast song and too fast for a slow song. Apparently a lot of other people have had similar experiences. It’s almost like there’s a Bermuda Triangle of pace at a certain number of b.p.m. A black spot that somehow doesn’t jive with our built-in biological rhythms.
The only song of Tool’s that I can’t connect with is ‘Crawl Away’, and I know it’s because of the tempo. I always feel that sense of being in a nightmare where I want to run but can’t move my legs. Something in the pace has a definite and frustrating quality of restraint. Knowing them it’s deliberate.
I have a similar problem with ‘Blood sugar sex magic’ by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The bass sounds so chunky and exciting, it says: ‘get your ass out of that chair right now!’, but the slacker drum beat says: ‘yeah, hang on, i’ll be there in a minute …’