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A TOOL-Related Article

Publication: MTV Online

Date: October 1996



[Kabir's note -- From a KMFDM single:
	"Slogans like 'Free Your Mind' can only mean one thing --
	Turn off your MTV and think for yourselves."]


MTV Online/Reviews
     Tool
     Aenima (Zoo)

     'Believe in nothing' is the Tool mantra, and with a creepy eyeball
cover, a loopy liner note diatribe advocating "ritual magik," and three
distinct tributes to the late outlaw political comic, Bill Hicks, Tool's
dark blueprint for Aenima is obvious even before the first listen. 

     This follow-up to 1993's platinum Undertow is indeed the dreary
art-rock landmark the packaging suggests, but the 77 minutes it takes for
Tool to rehash, regurgitate, and refilter the same trippy angst winds up
overshadowing the thematic achievement. Aenima ain't pretty; we get it.
But this monochromatic record refuses to end. Apparently, Tool's belief in
nothing extends to the value of a well-crafted, three-minute song. 

     As befits a frontman, Tool songwriter/spiritual leader Maynard James
Keenan is perhaps the guiltiest party here, dragging out each syllable as
if it were his last breath.  "Constant over-stimulation numbs me/and I
wouldn't have it any other way," Keenan wails in overkill a verse into the
opening "Stinkfist," perhaps answering the question: Completely poignant
or consistently unnecessary? Progressive rock fans will ultimately be the
judge, since Aenima is clearly guided more by the legacy of Yes, King
Crimson, and Pink Floyd than by contemporaries like Rage Against The
Machine or Pantera.  It's no wonder: producer Dave Bottrill had a hand in
the '70s' excesses as former Crimson and Peter Gabriel knobturner. To his
credit, he's smart enough to leave the metallic hooks firmly at the
forefront here.  (They do get away from him, though, in the trippier
passages of "Eulogy" and "H.") 

     Equally problematic is Keenan's lack of lyrical maturation. Lifting
Hicks' "Arizona Bay" California earthquake reference for the title track
is genius, but it is easily deflated by throwaway lines like "Followed by
faultlines that cannot sit still/followed by millions of dumbfounded
dipshits." Keenan wants to be a protest poet, but "dipshit" is his
vocabulary choice? 

     But suppose that Aenima's bloated unfriendliness is actually
symbolism for its real statement. Could Tool be asking us to decry
one-hit-wonder pop dribble by cleverly delivering a record that is, if
nothing else, challenging? The anti-music biz "Hooker With A Penis" is a
good test of the theory, with Keenan nicely coming off as genuinely
dumbfounded by his own major label/no sellout paradox. It's notably the
record's least structured or melodic tune, but may be the literal and
theoretical centerpiece, acting as Cliff's Notes for the psychobabble
paranoia that precedes it and facilitating a snappier finish. But even if
antiestablishmentism is your thing, 77 minutes is a long time to wait for
the cathartic statement--especially if you've already been waiting
three-and-a-half years since their last record. 

     -- Andy Langer


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