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

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



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

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.






How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.


Hip-Hop's Raashan Ahmad Talks About His Place in 'The Sun'

On his latest work,The Sun, rapper Raashan Ahmad brings his irrepressible charisma to this set of Afrobeat-influenced hip-hop.


Between the Buried and Me's Baby Pictures Star in 'The Silent Circus'

The Silent Circus shows Between the Buried and Me developing towards the progressive metal titans they would eventually become.


The Chad Taylor Trio Get Funky and Fiery on 'The Daily Biological'

A nimble jazz power trio of drums, tenor sax, and piano, the Chad Taylor Trio is free and fun, funky and fiery on The Daily Biological.


Vistas' 'Everything Changes in the End' Is Catchy and Fun Guitar Rock

Vistas' debut, Everything Changes in the End, features bright rock music that pulls influences from power-pop and indie rock.


In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?


Maestro Gamin and Aeks' Latest EP Delivers LA Hip-Hop Cool (premiere + interview)

MaestroAeks' Sapodigo is a collection of blunted hip-hop tunes, sometimes nudging a fulsome boom-bap and other times trading on laid-back, mellow grooves.


Soul Blues' Sugaray Rayford Delivers a "Homemade Disaster" (premiere + Q&A)

What was going to be a year of touring and building Sugaray Rayford's fanbase has turned into a year of staying home and reaching out to fans from his Arizona home.


Titan to Tachyons' Experimental Heaviness on Full Display via "Earth, And Squidless" (premiere)

Featuring current members of Imperial Triumphant, Titan to Tachyons break incredible new ground in the realm of heavy music.


Jerry Leger Teams with Moby Grape's Don Stevenson for "Halfway 'Til Gone" (premiere)

Reminiscent of Lee Hazlewood and the Everly Brothers, Jerry Leger's "Halfway 'Til Gone" is available on all streaming platforms on 6 August.


The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.