About 11 years ago, I began working in the campus game room. Basically, I was surrounded by 12 pool tables, 30+ arcade games, a juke box, and a snack stand next door. So, yah. Lots of amenities.
There were these two girls who came in EVERY Friday and Saturday night. Because they gained “regulars” status, they were given the preferential treatment of playing on Table 1–the table right next to my register, and technically for my use, but … I mean … come on. I’m not stupid, right?
The CD they played the most was Tool’s Aenima CD. Unfortunately, a pool hall with loud background noise and crappy speakers is probably not the best way to be introduced to Tool, but it’s what I had. The two girls would come in, grab their cues, ask for balls (no, seriously … ), and then they’d go drop off their stuff. One would set up the table, and the other would drop coins into the jukebox. They played 3 songs at least every single time they’d come in: “Stinkfist,” 46 and 2,” and “H.” Never failed. Sometimes, they’d throw in “Pushit” just for fun, but not regularly.
Finally, one day I told myself that it was time to hear the rest of the CD and actually listen to it with headphones. I ran down to the local used CD shop. In retrospect, not finding it amongst the used items was not surprising in the least. It’s too amazing to sell. Period. Finally, I succumbed and checked out Hastings. Notorious for their wallet raping prices, they were the only ones who had it, and so I *had* to buy it there.
(ed. note: yes, I realize that, all things being relative, “had” is very much a subjective term. People *have* to eat; you *need* sleep. No one *needs* a CD. Yes. I get it.)
If you can imagine being punched in the gut by Mike Tyson in his prime (read: pre-ear chewing and raping, et al), then being thrown over a billion foot cliff and hitting the bottom, yet somehow miraculously surviving, that’s what the first track (“Stinkfist”) on Tool’s Aenima is like. It’s an amazing sensation the hear the opening drums, base and guitar smack you around.
Anyway, that’s not why I’m writing this.
I’m writing because of their “newest” CD, even though it’s been out for well over 3 years. There’s a reason it takes Tool anywhere from 4-5 years to release a new CD. Other projects notwithstanding, they craft their songs in such a way that there’s no way anyone could reasonably expect such amazingness to materialize year to year. Take, for example, the 3rd and 4th tracks on the CD: “Wings for Marie” and “10000 Days.” These two alone would make the CD worth buying. They span 17+ minutes, and for those 17 minutes, you marvel at the wonder that is his mother. You feel his emotion and his affection for her. And this is TOOL we’re talking about. “Freaks are in this hopeless f***ing hole we call L.A. The only way to fix it is to flush it all away” Tool. It’s amazing to me that they can write something like this and then, on the same CD, play a song about alien abduction and being told that “you are the chosen one–the one who will deliver the message. A message of hope for those who choose to hear it, and a warning for those who do not.”
Their music has avoided a lot of the political agendas that a lot of bands tend to tow (ala SOAD, Muse, etc). They do, however, convey a strong spiritual message. “We are eternal; all this pain is an illusion” (from Lateralus‘ “Parabola”).
In the end, 10000 Days is one for the ages. Some critics discount it as being not as strong or edgy as Aenima or Undertow. While it may not be, it’s definitely Tool. That’s all that matters.