As someone who’s never counted herself among the seemingly inexplicable legions of Tool fanatics that populate the heavier regions of alternative rock, my knowledge of the band is admittedly nowhere near encyclopedic (or even much more than nonexistent). However, to hear that any rock-based band, whether it be AC/DC or Abazagorath, is demanding prices skywards of $70 for concert tickets, my automatic assumption is that they’re either a) the best band ever and I’ve somehow missed the boat, or b) they’re exploitative, self-important dicks. In my experience, the only live music experiences worth shelling out that kind of dosh are for multi-day festivals or once-in-a-lifetime events.
Still, proggy alternative rockers Tool have been plugging away since the early Nineties, impressing drummers, blowing stoners’ minds, and confusing parents who can’t suss out why their offspring are demanding that their Hot Topic school clothes budget be upped to pay for a shirt with a phallic-looking wrench emblazoned on the back. They were a gateway drug that led kids into heavier music — or didn’t, and instead provided a soundtrack to high school smoke sessions and hip-dad-trying-to-connect-with-his-rebellious-daughter-themed car rides. Maynard’s lyrics hit some hearts hard, and much like the Deftones, the band’s cerebral approach to groovy, prog-tinged rock offered a welcome alternative to the Korns and Limp Bizkits of the time. Tool’s live shows are hailed as audiovisual extravaganzas, rife with mind-melting displays and undisputed talent on tap. They mean a lot to a great many people, and absolutely nothing to plenty more.
From what I’ve gathered, they’re a “you had to be there” kind of band. Unfortunately, none of us are there anymore. From an outsider’s perspective, they simply haven’t aged that well. Hits like “Lateralus,” “Parabola,” and “Ænema” sound, well, anemic when compared to the more extreme offerings available even in the mainstream today. And even as heard on deeper cuts, their sound, which was once regarded as so wildly unique and “out there,” has been diluted and rehashed by scores of imitators and admirers alike. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t get it, but have yet to find a reason as to why I should try that hard. Their time is over. But if you want to spend the equivalent of a a night out on the town (or a bunch of records from better bands) on ‘em in the name of nostalgia, that’s your choice to make.