Music

Evolution Calling: Tool – "Cesaro Summability" and "Ænima"

A crunching guitar riff and pulverizing drumming unfortunately can't save "Ænima" from some lax songwriting.


Tool

Ænima

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

Tool's "Cesaro Summability" opens with the sound of a newborn crying. Then, for the span of one minute, a loop of white noise plays. The song's title derives from a mathematical method of assigning a sum value to an infinite series. For someone with a journalism major and an English minor, this song seems to naturally repel me. But for the Tool fans who are bent on dissecting all of Ænima's meanings, this site is the closest I can come to describing the term. Good luck.

Running at under two minutes, "Cesaro Summability" can be at least applauded for being wildly experimental, but knowing when to make its exit. The same can't be said for "(-) Ions". And while "Cesaro Summability" has been described as a "filler" track by some fans, I can't wholly agree. To be a filler track, it needs to be almost indistinguishable from other tracks on an album. It also implies the album would not lose any of its impact (and in some cases, may actually be stronger) if it was left on the cutting room floor. Say what you want about "Cesaro Summability", if you're a fan of the band, you can recognize the song. Even if that means referring to it as "the baby song".


"Ænima", like "Forty Six & Two", is Tool bringing all of the themes of its second LP into one song. Maynard James Keenan spent months constructing the lyrics, and for what it's worth, the track netted Tool a Grammy. The song is drawn partly from a Bill Hicks routine and seemingly from one of Travis Bickle's rants from the film Taxi Driver. But instead of Bickle's wish for a cleansing "rain" to wipe the vermin from the streets of New York City, Keenan is singing about "The Big One" sending self-help obsessed neurotics, wannabe gangsters, and cellphone-toting Hollywood execs into the sea.

The opening riff is one of the most recognized riffs in Tool's catalog. Adam Jones' sterile, stabbing guitar playing is offset by Danny Carey's seismic drumming. Like the best tracks on Ænima, the song highlights all of the band's strengths in the most straightforward of ways. Unlike "Cesaro Summability", you don't need a math degree to get what Keenan is talking about on "Ænima". "Fret for your latte and / Fret for your hairpiece and / Fret for your lawsuit and / Fret for your Prozac and / Fret for your pilot", Keenan sings delicately while urging the much stereotyped Los Angeles types to "learn to swim".

Unfortunately, even for Tool, apocalyptic prose can be pretty boring. With the exception of a few creative lines (see "One great big festering neon distraction"), "Ænima"'s biggest weakness is its well-worn target of shallow materialism. Even the central lesson of the song "try and read between the lines" sounds like a rushed, lazy conclusion. As brute catharsis, "Ænima" ranks up there some of Slayer's most brutal attacks. But as a song that's supposed to be one of the final statements on a wildly ambitious album, Tool has proven it's capable of more.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image