I grew up a big fan of the band Tool. I started listening a couple years after Ænima was released but before Lateralus. I can remember when Lateralus was released; I had never anticipated a new album release more than Lateralus, and probably not one since. By the time college rolled around I had moved on to more progressive rock like Dream Theater, Rush, Pink Floyd, and followed that with some pretty heavy stuff like Tomahawk (anything with Mike Patton really) and Dillinger Escape Plan. But I would always come back around and re-listen to Tool every couple of years, and every time I do I hear the music differently than the last time. Over time some of the lyrics to the songs mean a little something different to me, or my understanding of what is trying to be unveiled becomes a little bit clearer. I would not say this is a unique experience to Tool’s music, but since that’s what I grew up listening to the most no other band has had the same impact on me.
“A Perfect Union of Contrary Things” is the biography of Maynard James Keenan, singer for Tool, as well as A Perfect Circle and Puscifer. The book is written by a childhood friend of Keenan’s, Sarah Jensen, and includes many excerpts directly from the man himself. In some ways it is your typical biography of a rock star; troubled moments during youth, apostasy with the church, inability to manage relationships with women on the road, etc. In other ways though, Keenan is not your typical rock star; graduate of West Point Prep school (and declined admittance to West Point), successfully started three separate bands, and built a vineyard and winery in the Arizona desert.
The greatness in this book is seeing and understanding the journey of Keenan. If you’re interested in how an entrepreneur is able to get big things done, this is a book for you. If you’re interested in the physical and spiritual journey that helped Keenan to go on to create Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer, this book is equally for you. I have read some reviews of the book and some of the critique revolves about there not being enough with regard to Tool, or the music in general. I disagree, I think the balance between Keenan’s life, art, and business is well distributed throughout. More importantly, this book shows how Keenan’s life, art, and business are all interconnected, and from this aspect it is very well done.
Even more than this book, if you have never given Tool a good listen, do it. Now. Start from the beginning, Opiate, and do not stop until you reach their latest, 10,000 Days. Listen to the lyrics, Google for them because you’ll probably need to in some cases, and let them sink in. The cool thing about going back and re-listening every couple of years is that I can really see the band evolve over time. The early work is full of angst and sharp edges. Over time the tone becomes more reflective and spiritual, and as I get older I find myself evolving in a similar fashion. The band’s latest album, 10,000 Days is actually 10 years old as of now. If you search the Tool sub-Reddit you’ll see it filled with questions and anxiety over a possible new album – I would not get caught up in this. Tool has given us plenty to work with, and there are other great bands out there worth listening to (Puscifer is *almost* as great too!).