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The Tool Page: An Article

Publication: Rolling Stone

Date: February, 2001

Transcribed by
Matt Findon (

  page: 73
 title: Tool - Salival (review)
author: Ben Ratliff

Tool seemed profoundly out of place on the Ozzfest tour three years 
ago. It was easy to stick out among the growls, rap-rock rhythms and 
boilerplate pierced-eyebrow image of the baby neo-metal bands that 
surrounded them. The year before, at Lollapalooza, frontman Maynard 
James Keenan wore false breasts and a whitened face. At Ozzfest, the 
band brought the tempo down, used stagecraft that drew upon Noh 
theater and flashed abstract graphic symbols. Keenan's voice, pop-
trained and emotional, could sound lonely amid the swirl. The band 
members didn't advertise that they had come to freak you out; they 
provided no helpful notes as to how you should react. 
Tool knows that objects and images without explanations attached 
become totems - they sit there and get under your skin. Stick them on 
your rock & roll record, and you've got occultish mystery. They 
learned this trick from the best of them: Pink Floyd, who used plump, 
bewildering pigs and cows before they started getting brick-over-head 
obvious with The Wall; and Led Zeppelin, whose fourth album still 
raises a paranoid shiver (it has no name, dude!). 

The band's stopgap measure for fans before the release of its next 
studio album this spring is a two-disc CD-and-DVD package, adorned 
with wavy, reptilian fingers, called Salival (although the album art 
makes the title difficult to discern). Its lasting contribution will 
be the CD, which has nine tracks, some unreleased, some live. The 
live songs include "Third Eye"; the driving "Part of Me"; 
and "Pushit," with a tabla break to increase the oceanic, drony 
feeling Tool can establish onstage. The studio tracks include 
Zeppelin's "No Quarter," with Keenan masking his Robert Plant 
influences via sonic treatment that makes him sound as if he's 
singing into a watering can. 

But Salival's cool appeal is the DVD, compiling four of the band's 
videos and offering an extra scraplike song. The videos --
 "Sober," "Prison Sex," "Stink Fist" and "Aenema" -- have a uniform 
feeling, though only two are directed by Adam Jones, the band's 
guitarist and visual thinker. Visually, Tool provide a good 
translation of what Led Zeppelin would likely be into if they made 
The Song Remains the Same today -- in a culture that's gulped down 
and found places in the digestive tract to stow away the multimedia 
work of Matthew Barney and the films and videos of David Fincher. 
It's a medical rather than a bucolic scariness; a less literary, more 
emergency-room sense of the eerie. 

The weird dream images of "Stink Fist" include pain-wracked, 
tadpolelike men made of sand who eat nails and inhale electric 
wiring, which gives them instant brain swelling. "Aenema" stars a 
fat, Babbitt-like creature -- the Establishment or the Father, one 
guesses -- with a kind of thin screen of flesh over his eyes and 
mouth, holding a fetus-size creature; later, a centaurlike skeleton 
figure is shown with an animated umbilical cord. And the dollhouse-in-
hell grimescapes of "Sober" are unnerving mixtures of childhood 
innocence and where you go after being escorted into your coffin. As 
a hidden bonus, there's "Hush," a track from the 1992 EP Opiate, 
accompanied by an early, grainy black-and-white film of the guys in 
the band, nude, with parental-advisory stickers over their crotches 
and asses. "I can't say what I want to. . . . Why don't you go fuck 
yourself," sings Keenan. (Subtle.) 

The films are surreal and arty -- to use kind words for pretentiously 
undergraduate -- and well suited to Tool's sound. The numbing browns 
and dirty greens are analogous to Jones' effects-treated guitar, the 
slow, repetitive nature of the songs and the dirt-from-the-
subconscious feeling of it all. You, the viewer, are led toward the 
contents of the DVD via symbols - the weird, watery fingers, red 
parallel lines that could be blood vessels or guitar strings, and 
disturbing images from the videos. 

It almost makes sense that as an interactive package, there's not a 
lot of extra meat on the bones here; no special angles, no the-making-
of voice-overs, not many extra features to play with. The extra 
technology of DVDs is geared at the moment toward making the product 
less mysterious and more fully explicated, and toward giving the 
consumer more control. But with its serious fetishism and King 
Crimson affinities, Tool is a band of control freaks, and mystery is 
the biggest, baddest card in its hand. (RS 862) 

Posted to t.d.n: 01/24/01 12:58:25