As the new school year starts, it's important to remember that John Hughes' ghost would have us believe that there are essentially two species of teenager: the popular jocks and the misfit outsiders. In this corner, you have the weight room warriors, and in the other, you have the kids who smacked their foreheads when they got through the first few chapters in Albert Camus' The Stranger during third period English and exclaimed: "Of course!"
The Hughes theory is a flawed one, however. There are an endless number of common factors that support the counter-argument. And in my day, one of those factors was Tool. "Stinkfist" and "Forty Six & 2" provided a solid soundtrack to anything from tackle drills on a sunny afternoon to moments of self-imposed exile in your dark bedroom while you wondered what your place in the world might be.
Tool might be fairly new to the young people that will make up the class of 2020 and beyond, so for the first time since the era of (legal) music downloads and streaming services, the kids will have full access to Maynard James Keenan's musical creation. In fact, they have far less tethered access than we had when I was that age. They'll never know the frustration that comes from CD scratches and the false promises of a Discman's "shock protection" feature, and they won't need to make a trip to Tower Records to pick up Undertow for $14.99.
In fact, they have all the Tool albums. Plus, pretty much every other album ever recorded. (To be fair, they don't exactly get every Tool album since 2000's live album Salival doesn't seem to be available. But hey, why should we spoil these kids?)
The band may be the final significant holdout to take the step into the not-so-new-anymore media landscape. Legends like AC/DC and The Beatles resigned themselves to the changing times, but Tool still chose not to make the jump until a few weeks ago. And just like my father said when I handed him a legally purchased Sour Diesel vape pen last Christmas, I was beginning to think I'd never see the day. It can be argued that if they had waited any longer, their music would be dragged into the Undertow of the current media sea change.
Based on the feedback they received when they made the move to streaming, Tool obviously landed on their feet. Their new track, "Fear Inoculum," made a solid impact on YouTube. Their Spotify numbers are climbing. And most telling of all, the contrarians are out in full force with their broad brushes. They're trying their damnedest to convince us all that all Tool's fanbase is made up entirely of vape monkeys who are too mired in the Dunning-Kruger effect to realize that Joe Rogan is not a prophet and that the moon landing is actually plausible.
You'll find those voices in the comment section below, undoubtedly remarking that Tool's addition to these services has suspiciously coincided with the death of iTunes. Fair enough.
Was this all a calculated move on the band's part? When you consider that the fact that the Fibonacci Sequence was the spine of Lateralus, "calculation" doesn't seem all that hard to believe. But it shouldn't be cynically viewed as one big money-grab scheme. If you're going to release a new album after nearly a dozen-year hiatus, why not find a way to make the release date just a part of the whole plan? At this rate, music fans might just have to refer to this as "Summer of Tool."
No matter what the game plan was, we should probably steer clear of the "overthinking, overanalyzing" that the band spoke of in the title track to the aforementioned 2001 album. Let's leave the cynicism to the Tool-haters while we take a moment to appreciate that the day has finally come.
Maybe, just maybe, some high school in America will adopt "Third Eye" as this year's graduation song.
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