Evolution Calling: Tool – "Intermission" and "jimmy"

The lighthearted, aptly-named "Intermission" serves as the halfway marker on Tool's Ænima, while "jimmy" supplies a much-needed personal core to the landmark album.



Label: Volcano
US release date: 1996-10-01

David Fricke is full of shit.

At least that's what I thought when I read his one-paragraph review of Ænima for Rolling Stone's 1996 year-end issue. I counted myself amongst the cult of Tool fans who saw Ænima as an important album; one that fulfilled the lofty expectations set forth on Opiate and Undertow. Released when metal was still having a major post-grunge identity crisis, I, like other Tool fans, saw Ænima as a record that would do nothing less than reshape the metal landscape.

And David Fricke saw it as yet another album to review. In his five-sentence review of Ænima, Fricke set aside two full sentences of that write-up to poke fun at the one-minute instrumental cut "Intermission". The carnival-like effects on that track are a lighthearted start to Ænima's second half. It also is the sound of the introduction of "jimmy". While it may be slight, "Intermission" feels like a necessary component to the album. However, Fricke disagreed, calling for a "moratorium on concept CDs that come with lightweight 'Intermission' instrumental tracks". He added, "If you need to take a piss in the middle of the record, just hit the pause button."

Fricke's analysis perfectly demonstrated that while there were hundreds of thousands of fans pouring over the lyrics, dissecting the time signatures, and philosophizing how metal would change with the release of Ænima, the vast majority of critics merely viewed it as an album from a better-than-average metal band to write about. For those that could remove themselves from the cult of Tool, Fricke had a point (especially if you listen to "Intermission" on its own on, say, your iPod shuffle). But for Tool devotees, Fricke's review ranks up there with other notable Rolling Stone flubs, such as their initial three-star review of Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation or Nirvana's Nevermind.

The oft-repeated cliché about a chain only being as strong as its weakest link could easily be applied to "jimmy". In the case of "jimmy", the weak link analogy doesn't refer to its quality, but rather its normalcy. Tucked in the center of Ænima, in between the fan-favorite "Hooker with a Penis" and the ambitious nine-minute track "Pushit", "jimmy" possesses a rare moment of subtleness on the album.

In terms of analysis, "jimmy" caused Tool devotes to widely speculate its meaning. Those that dissect the philosophical meanings of Tool's songs claim the repeated use of "eleven" was related to number theory. Other fans favor a more concrete explanation of 11: it was the age when singer Maynard James Keenan's mother suffered a debilitating aneurysm. Whatever meaning you may pry from "jimmy", it's arguably the most personal song on Ænima, referencing "dead Ohio skies" (where Keenan grew up) and its general message of reconciliation.

While "jimmy" may not possess the fireworks of "Hooker with a Penis" or the title track, it does contain one of the most distinguishable guitar riffs on the album. Adam Jones' rolling chords builds up to a powder keg-like tension when Keenan finally explodes, singing "I'm heading back home". It's an arresting moment that efficiently encapsulates the entire song and its purpose on the LP. While few elements stick out in relation to the record's other heights, it is a textbook example of everything that Tool did best in the mid-'90s.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.