Complete Discography: Tool

I listened to all their records start to finish

September 24, 2020
Maynard James Keenan of Tool

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 Taking a page from Erin Tate's playbook, I listened to the entire Tool Discography start to finish. What a ride!

I was a late-stage teenager when Tool’s Ænima dropped and the timing was perfect for mad-at-your-dad music to move me. I was already listening to non-stop punk rock, but liked the more complicated nature of Tool and the “whoa, he’s deeeeeep, man” essence of Maynard James Keenan. 

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After revisiting their catalog, I can confirm that that record remains their best. Whilst Undertow is nothing to scoff at, the refinement and growth into Ænima makes this their masterpiece. Stupid, outlandish nonsense like the weed brownie recipe read like its Hitler yelling at the right-wing 1930’s sheep or the circus music intro to Jimmy serve a purpose that Tool is intentionally creating, but it’s the more subtle production that makes it feel like an entire lifetime in one album.

Ok, that being said, this is yet another band that as I listen down their catalog, they have only grown more into their own shit. They’re aging like humans do with more knowledge, ability, and seeming self belief that their way works. I love it. But it also maybe doesn’t lend itself to the best cohesion within the band.

After Ænima, I always felt like Maynard working independently from the group while writing albums hurt the overall product. I mean, not a 1.9/10 rating for Lateralus on Pitchfork bad, settle down, but that it was two groups in one: a band and then an island of a ridiculous man poking at his fans that he loves to hate. It’s an act that has made him wealthy I’m sure but I’m not sure allowed the music to elevate.

10,000 Days - specifically the two-part song around the death of Maynard’s mother - connects on a weirdly spiritual level still and may be some of my favorite post-Ænima work. Another well produced and maybe even a little softer in tone sounding record when compared to the very crisp Lateralus and Fear Binoculars (I know).

 

Fear Inoculum, widely ridiculed by my Tool loving friends and pretty much the entire critical community of writers, oddly pleases me with it’s insanely impossible rhythms and counting. It feels like the most divided record with Danny Carey and Adam Jones over here writing an impossible to play live record (it’s not), and Maynard, bored out of his mind, over there contributing to about 7% of the 80-whatever minutes. A year later, I still put this record on to hear the impressive skill on display by the musicians.

The interludes, not so much.

Side thought, is there any better job in music than that of bassist Justin Chancellor?

Ok, TL;DR

After listening through, here are my thoughts boiled down:
This was a wonderful few days of listening to excellent music.
I stand by the notion that Ænima is their best work.
They could have been even better with more Maynard, but the grapes don’t grow themselves.