Let me start this off by saying I love the band Tool. It was one of those bands I discovered in high school that hit the right note for me at the right time. As a weird music nerd, this band spoke to me. Tool brought cool, cryptic Floydian aspects to metal and industrial music that allowed for musical experimentation and snarky humor in the songwriting. They made interesting and cool videos, and they were more interested in an album as a whole than making a popular single. Having said that, I do not think we do not need a new album from Tool.
As much as I love the band, I have recognized that over the years, Tool has not made a great album since 1996’s “Ænima.” Granted, only two albums have followed it, but those didn’t really bring the band to new places musically or lyrically. “Lateralus” and “10,000 Days” have no real distinction, nothing really popping out and feel more like contractual agreements than the work of an inspired band. I tend to give “10,000 Days” more credit than “Lateralus” because I enjoyed the longer track lengths (something I thought Tool could have been doing much earlier) that allowed for a little more breathing room to experiment, but ultimately felt the album — as a whole — fell flat.
Hardcore fans will probably disagree, but that’s because they think Tool can do no wrong, and everything the band farts out it a masterpiece. You simply cannot change the minds of fanatics.
Tool hit a good stride of inspiration in the 1990s, and vocalist Maynard James Keenan did some interesting albums outside the band — I will say I’m not a huge fan of A Perfect Circle, but really enjoy Puscifer. In fact, the latter band has probably released more interesting music since it started than any post-“Ænima” Tool records. And it certainly feels like Maynard has more interest in Puscifer than Tool, since he can’t shut up about that band and is strained to even mention Tool in interviews.
I am at the point were I would rather hear him talk about his wine business than hear him having to explain why Tool hasn’t released a new album yet.
And I get that the band members are incredibly talented, Danny Carey is hands down my favorite drummer of all time. But when a band no longer sounds inspired, it tend to sound like the members are phoning it it. Tool has always been technically great with its music. That’s not the issue with the past two albums. The problem with those albums is that the only thing exceptional about them is the technical playing. The lyrics, the song structures, the feel of the albums feel contrived. The ability is there, but the inspiration feels lacking.
The problem, I think, is that with “Ænima” Tool had peaked. The band had accomplished what I (and many others) consider almost a damn near perfect album. As a result, Tool had nothing else to prove, and as a band, maybe nothing left to say. Everything that followed certainly felt forced. In the members side projects, they seem to shine with the energy that made Tool great, but no longer seem to pull it off together.
If and when they do release that mysterious new album, I will give it a listen. But I can no longer muster up the excitement I once had for the band going in. It is not so much I felt burned by the band’s last two efforts — those albums are listenable, just not very memorable — it is more like the band’s enthusiasm toward making new music is as deflated as mine listening to it. If they decide to call it quits, I would be fine with that. The band paid its dues, and made some amazing music along the way.