– Mark E. Smith

The iTunes capacity to burn compilation CDs is quaint when there are so many iPods available they now come in versions custom-made for superannuated Irish rock bands. (I’ll take the black one nonetheless.)

I went through the process of winnowing every song by Tool into a playlist small enough to fit on a compact disc. Yes, Tool, OK? My absolute happiest nightclub memory ever, as adduced previously, involved being perched on the best seat in the packed house listening to Tool. When one does not drink, one resorts to substitute pleasures.

I was nonetheless disillusioned to find that Tool is a band for whom the idea is easier to like than the reality. First there are the annoying jokester filler numbers on Ænima that require manual skipping on an actual CD player. Then there’s a tendency toward underproduction and underrealization (an unrepresentative and surprising trait; the songs we remember seem rapturous and fully evolved). The other tendency – for profane triteness – is actually representative and unsurprising once the lyrics even of the better songs are examined. M.J. Keenan really mustn’t be gay after all if this is the norm of what he comes out with.

I was nonetheless trying to find the crème-de-la-crème. Some half-dozen listening sessions devoted to the candidate playlist saw me vote song after song off the island; nothing with a rating under three stars survived. And the list is:

  1. “Stinkfist” (“I don’t want it, I just need it – to feel, to breathe, to know I’m alive”)
  2. “Forty Six & 2”
  3. “No Quarter”
  4. “Sober”
  5. “Jimmy”
  6. “Ænima”
  7. “Lateralus”
  8. “Schism” (“There was a time that the pieces fit, but I watched them fall away”)
  9. “Parabola”
  10. “Reflection”
  11. “Prison Sex” (the cause of untold Google hits to a previous article of mine)
  12. “Undertow”

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2004.11.23 15:29. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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