A month after Ænima‘s release, another notable metal album hit record stores. That LP, Antichrist Superstar came with considerable more fanfare since its lead singer was enjoying being the target of protests from conservative leaders. During its Antichrist Superstar heyday, Marilyn Manson relished the title of “band most likely to piss off Congress” by mocking religious institutions, incorporating fascist imagery in its clothing, and live shows, and gleefully stoking obscene rumors about what goes on during its live shows (the rumor of the group refusing to play a note more until a concert crowd sacrificed a puppy remains a personal favorite).
Tool wasn’t nearly as over-the-top as Marilyn Manson, but that didn’t mean that the band didn’t capitalize on a few mainstream misconceptions. To call the band’s early-‘90s videos at least partially disturbed would be a noncontroversial statement. Ditto the band’s liner notes (see the PETA-enraging fork-and-pig artwork on Undertow).
If such a band were to include a song that included a menacing tune sung in German with rallying crowd noise in the background, you may be inclined to cite this track as yet another example of how far we’ve sunk morally as a culture. Unless, of course, you did your homework and took into account that sometimes said band enjoys ridiculing peoples’ knee-jerk reactions to render judgment. If said song was actually not a call to violence (despite the foreboding, lurching industrial beat), but instead was an egg-free cookie recipe, that would actually be pretty amusing.
Thematically, Ænima is one of the more concise concept albums in rock. The album began with a remarkable string of powerful, yet insanely catchy songs. Most of the tracks dealt with the concept of change and evolution. However, even the most avid Tool fan has to admit the middle portion of Ænima takes a few odd left turns. Instead of the lean verse/chorus/verse arrangements of “Forty Six & 2” and “Eulogy”, listeners get disjointed answering machine messages and cookie recipes over the screams of a Germanic rally. So, by the time “Pushit” comes in, you get the feeling that Tool is beginning to lay the foundations for the album’s final act as it veers back into more traditional song structures.
“Pushit” reunites Tool with its love for the slow, winding eight minute-plus epic. The song also returns to the recurring theme of abuse. And like some of the best songwriting, the lyrics are concrete while leaving the song wide open to interpretation (“I’m alive when you’re touching me / Alive when you’re shoving me down / But I’d trade it all / For just a little bit of / Peace of mind”). One listen to “Pushit” reveals a brutal relationship between a child and his or her abusive parents. Another listen may reveal a poisonous, codependent relationship that offers no escape for either party. Like most of Ænima, it leaves the listener to put the pieces together.
The chorus “But you’re pushing me” fits nicely with the overall music of “Pushit”. Divided into three segments, the song sways from Adam Jones’ vicious guitar riffs to a brooding middle section, propelled by Justin Chancellor’s bass. Each section is so sharply plotted that even at nine minutes, “Pushit” manages to sound free of flab.
Bill Hicks routinely joked that he was losing people when he went off on one of his tangents in his acts, and he had to “reel” people back into the fold. After a few songs that tested listener’s ability to go down the path Tool lays out on Ænima, “Pushit” is the song that brings listeners back into the album and readies them for the ferocious title track.
// Notes from the Road
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