Tool of the Man found Poster Children not only coming to grips with life on a major label (and doing it very well -- their experiences at never owing Sire any money while taking charge of their own career are an object lesson for nearly all acts), but sounding even better than ever. Not that their previous albums were terrible, but there's a live-wire punch right from the start that makes both the band as a whole and Rick Valentin in particular sound all the more merrily upfront. His singing isn't always as buried as it was before, stronger and more confident in the same way that the music -- especially in contrast to so much of the grunge-wannabe style at the time -- had a nervous, fierce edge throughout, even at slower tempos. The quartet's ear for hard rock rampage in a post-punk guise hadn't changed any -- Rose Marshack's bass, in particular, now sounded like it could knock down walls without even trying -- but there's all the energy of new wave quirkiness without seeming like a quirky new wave band. How else to explain the full-on mayhem of "Tommyhaus" or the giddy energy of "Outside In" -- songs that are as heavy as any listener could want but succeed first and foremost at putting a smile on a listener's face? As for straight-up rock power, there's "In My Way" (check out the surging mid-song guitar blast in particular, truly monumental stuff), the near-obsessive focus of "Redline," and the no-amps-cranked-higher death march of "Idiot Show." The full balance would yet be found on the amazing Junior Citizen, but Tool of the Man is less successful than that album only by a matter of degrees. Best song titles this time around: "Blatant Dis" and "Shotguns & Pickups," both of which quickly blast out without apology.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett