I don't remember the first time I heard "Pushit". I don't remember the first time I heard Tool, for that matter. I know that when it came out I hated hearing "Lateralus" on the radio and it took a supreme effort on JLM's part to get me to actually listen to it. I know I was in love with A Perfect Circle long before I connected the dots that would lead me to Tool. I know that it has taken an overexposure to their music for me to love them, that even now I am discovering and rediscovering. I don't know if I will ever stop hearing something different, some nuance I never noticed before. I haven't even scratched the surface with this band and honestly, I doubt I ever will. I doubt I can. The talent, the complexity of the music, the references in the lyrics.. It's like the fucking T.S. Eliot of modern rock. See you down in Arizona Bay.
I know also that this sound will never occupy my soul the way Mer de Noms does, but as I move and change, it moves and changes with me. It doesn't make me nostalgic the way a lot of other music does. I don't have many memories associated with Tool and its not for a lack of listening. It vaguely reminds me of MIA, but only because I'm always trying to remember something I've noticed in a song that I want to discuss with him. By the time "Prison Sex" has turned into "Sober", I have forgotten what it was. Tool is mine in a way that few bands are and yet I resist embracing them, being lulled into complacency by the sound. This isn't music that will tuck you in at night. It doesn't leave you feeling whole and well and it certainly won't fill that empty place in you. Pushing and shoving me.
When I saw Tool in May of 2007, they played this. I did not notice, I only know that they did because I distinctly remember M pointing it out to me. I was hoping they would play "Opiate" but no such luck. I have heard people say that seeing Tool is like a religious experience. For me, it was like being put into a trance. I never knew that something so loud could be that soothing. At the end of it, I only knew that I had been crying because my face was wet. Perhaps thats part of my resistance to embracing them wholeheartedly. Tool isn't just moving. It crawls underneath my skin, settling itself as it pleases and leaving me with no control. It disturbs and stirs and lingers. Days away I still feel you.
Tool takes everything you have ever feared, ever been paranoid about, anything that has ever lurked in the shadows in the back of your mind and will pull it right to the surface. It makes the hole wider. It digs in and won't let go until has thoroughly shaken you. But. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger right? That's the thing, really. Much like having a good cry, once you come up for oxygen, you feel better. More in control, level headed, collected. Because the songs aren't about whining, they aren't about breaking down, and they sure as hell aren't about losing. There is no choice but to confront you. It will make you face your fears, face yourself, stop running. If Tool breaks you down, it is only to make you stronger. I know I am better for hearing it. Often angrier. But anger is a catalyst for change. Its constructive. Don't mistake me, it's not like listening to Tool isn't enjoyable, its just not easy listening by any stretch of the imagination. Choosing to be here, right now, hold on, stay inside, this holy reality, this holy experience. Choosing to be here in... This body. This body holding me. Be my reminder here that I am not alone in- This body, this body holding me, feeling eternal all this pain is an illusion. Alive.
Listening to Tool can be liking falling into a hole. I rarely put them on mixes because its so hard to find an equal, something that matches. They usually get sandwiched between Deftones and Nine Inch Nails. And once I start listening, it'll often be hours, even days before I can break myself away. Undertow bleeds into Aenima into Lateralus and finally resting on Opiate. Whatever I was doing falls to the wayside and if I'm driving, it's not unusual for me to get lost. Frankly, it's dangerous and breeds dissatisfaction. And yet... I don't want it, I just need it. To breathe, to feel, to know I'm alive.
I have had a pain in my chest for days that is only caused by stresses I cannot express. It sounds like this song. I wrote some of the lyrics down on a to do list weeks ago and they have been haunting me, taunting me ever since. Daring me to write about it. I will choke until I swallow. And I don't know what to say really. Except that there are still days where I feel like everything, every single little thing that makes up life itself is an uphill battle that I am constantly fighting and clawing at and that I am bleeding myself dry just to stay in place and not slide back down to the bottom of this mountain that I am forever climbing in my journey to God only knows where. I know the pieces fit. And I knew that I would feel better if I just gave in to Maynard's voice for a few hours.