Before the other day I’d only ever heard Tool on the radio, and the few songs I’d heard, “Sober” and “Stinkfist” from their earlier records, always sounded fresh and hard and raw and exciting: pulverizing bass and drums and heavy guitars leavened by the slight tinge of vulnerability in the singer Maynard’s voice. Plus, the songs were about things the average human could relate to — things like staying drunk to keep a relationship alive, and fisting (also to keep a relationships alive?). If fisting wasn’t your thing, “Prison Sex” exalted the transcendence of sodomy. But that was when they were young and full of piss and vinegar. I think they even had a song about pissing vinegar, or at least pissing.
Somewhere along the line, though, they got all brilliant and proggy and now on their new 10,000 Days (the No. 1 album in the country at press time!) they have songs called “Wings for Marie (Pt. 1)” and “10,000 Days (Wings Pt. 2)” and “Lipan Conjuring,” and now I don’t have any fucking clue what they’re on about — it’s way too complicated for me. I should admit, though, that I dropped out of math in the 10th grade and always thought common sense made more sense than philosophy, and I couldn’t break down String Theory for you either. The good news, I guess, is that their new record comes in really fancy, artsy packaging with 3-D lenses that are meant to provide some kind of far-out visual experience to go with the weird, surreal graphics and photos of dudes with falcons and magpies and other occultish stuff like skulls and fetuses and candles and vultures and skeletons with geometrical things going on around them (dangerously reminiscent of Rush album artwork).
Still, I couldn’t get the damn things to work for me: not the record (barely managed a listen) or the far-out 3D glasses (never had that oh, no! it’s coming right at me feeling). But the fact that 10,000 Days sold nearly 700,000 copies in its first week makes me wonder if our secondary schools are really doing as badly in math and science as we’re being led to believe.