Am I a Tool, or Are You?
At the end of this article, you’re either going to love me, or hate me. To be honest, I don’t even know how I feel about myself right now. Some of you may know, others may be surprised to find out that I am a self-proclaimed Tool doubter. You heard it right, I don’t really like the band Tool all that much. In fact, if you were to ask me (and people have) what band I think is the most over-rated, I would probably say Maynard and the gang without hesitation. I have never really been able to jump on the Tool Train. I like a couple songs here and there, but for the most part, when one comes on, I just roll my eyes and think “there’s an hour I can’t get back…” But I’ve never really stopped to ask myself why I don’t like them. Is it because the songs are soooo long and drug out? Is it because most of the Tool fanatics that I talk to are such actual tools that it just turns me off completely? Since I consider myself sort of a melomaniac (impress your friends with that nugget of trivia), I decided to really dig in deep as to the origins of my loathsomeness for the “greatest rock band in the world.”
It’s been kind of slow here the past couple weeks at The Rock and Roll Mansion. Lots of people are taking well deserved time off and we don’t have many visitors right now due to the pandemic, so I decided to do an experiment with my extra time. I was going to listen to all the Tool songs I could, for as long as I could, to see if I might be able to change the tides a bit. Maybe if I put forth a concerted effort to appreciate the music, it might make me feel differently about the songs. With some pointers from your friendly neighborhood I-Rock DJ, I started at the beginning. Opiate. I then went on to Undertow, Aenima, Lateralus, 10,000 Days, and rounding out the marathon with Fear Inoculum. In any true experimental fashion, I made changes to venue (office, car, home) time of day (morning, drive home, night time) sound quality (Bluetooth speaker vs. subs w/amp) just to make sure I was covering all my bases scientifically. Below is the interpretation of data, as I see (or hear) it.
The songs are just too damn long. Period. Whether it starts with a minute-long conversation in morse code, or a minute of rain sounds, it’s just not how I want a song to start. Kind of like when you’re waiting on the edge of your seat for the person telling the story to get to the goddamn point already….that irony is not lost on me, I assure you. Once they get started, musically the songs are good. I did enjoy quite a few of them. The problem was when I thought the songs were coming to a close…surprise! Five more minutes of the same. If they had ended when they probably should have, I would have no complaints. The rest just seems like overkill to me. I will say that the earlier albums were much more tolerable than the gospel that is Fear Inoculum.
Another thing I wasn’t a big fan of, and this is strictly personal preference, is that the songs were heavy, but not exactly hard. They definitely had that dark, brooding, rock feel that we have all come to know and love, but they just didn’t have that “POW! In your face!” kind of vibe that I seem to be drawn to. Certainly not a point against them, it’s just not what I’m looking for. It’s gotta be hard and fast 24/7 to get my seal of approval (that’s EXACTLY what she said).
In conclusion, I was left just a bit underwhelmed by the whole experience. Before you go lighting your torches and grabbing your pitchforks, please know that I really did try. I did my best to immerse myself in this music. So far as to read along with the lyrics to many songs just to better understand them. I will say that I do have a much deeper appreciation for what Tool have done over the decades, they certainly got a lot of things right. They are all masters of their craft and should be regarded as such. Myself, however, am much more suited for the Cliff’s Notes version. I guess the silver lining to that is there’s always A Perfect Circle.
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