Tool’s latest release is really testing my newly formed belief that advance-release singles are a bad idea.
Debuting a few weeks ago, the first Tool song to be released in about 13 years (fans appreciate that prime, Fibonacci number) hit YouTube and other streaming sites.
I’m writing this column a day before the full “Fear Inoculum” album comes out. By the time you read this column, I will likely be on my 55th listen, studying the time signatures, noting the rhythms, envisioning how the music lines up with a golden ratio spiral and staring intently at a single spot in the wall. I may not be in the best condition for conversation, in other words.
But right now, on “New Tool Music Eve,” a day for which I’ve been waiting for more than a decade, I’m filled with an odd sort of dread.
A quick background: Tool is a rock band that performs music on its own terms. Intricately written and envisioned, singer Maynard James Kennan, drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor are masters of their crafts, and the collaboration between them has produced some of the most compelling, fascinating rock in music history.
While considered progressive rock, Tool exhibits none of the show-off wankery that other beloved prog-rock bands such as Dream Theater or Rush write entire songs around. Each song is an experience, a statement with emotional direction and hypnotic effect. While a jaw-dropping guitar solo from Jon Petrucci in a Dream Theater song stands out, Jones’ work is just as complicated, yet much more subtle — you’re not listening to his solo, you’re listening to his contribution.
Fandom took hold of me in the days of “Aenima,” released in 1996. (1993’s “Undertow” just doesn’t stick with me.) I listened to each song religiously, hearing separate rhythms played on top of each other for delightful chaos that resolved in a single moment of unison. The song “Aenema” particularly captivated me and remains my best, most succinct example of everything a Tool song is.
I thought five years was a long time to wait for 2001’s “Lateralus,” but it was worth it. While “Schism” and “The Patient” are particularly haunting, that album’s title track is one of my favorite songs of all time.
I thought five years was about the appropriate time to wait for 2006’s “10,000 Days.” That album, released during the year I started working at the Globe, helped me get through daily drives between Joplin and then-hometown Nixa. “Vicarious,” “Jambi” and “Rosetta Stoned” (weird, that song started playing right when I was typing this paragraph) remain my favorites.
But a Tool album isn’t just about music. I still listen to albums. I don’t stream; I purchase and download, then listen from start to finish. And one of the reasons I have continued to love Tool is that the band actually cares about the album as an experience.
For the best example of this, just look at the last three album’s packaging:
• “Aenima” was packaged with a lenticular case and detachable cards producing different animated images.
• “Lateralus” came with a booklet of transparent plastic illustrations that resembled medical textbooks, pairing perfectly with that album’s message of looking inward.
• “10,000 Days” came in a thick, cardboard-covered booklet that gave zero craps about your CD storage racks. The flap held stereoscopic eyeglasses for viewing images inside the booklet, giving them a 3-D appearance.
I mentioned impending dread: That’s not because of the music. In a previous column, I bemoaned and whined about Keenan effort A Perfect Circle being made to sound like Keenan effort Puscifer and worried that the next Tool album would be similarly Puscifered. “Fear Inoculum” proved me wrong.
My dread is not for the band, but for us: Is this era really ready for a Tool experience?
Thirteen years ago, I was going to actual music stores to by actual CDs. My entertainment center had a rack specifically designed for CD cases (and “10,000 Days” did not fit, throwing my alphabetization scheme right in two). But over the past decade, I’ve bought more ones and zeroes than I have polycarbonate and aluminum.
The concept of owning a full collection means nothing to me anymore. Where I proudly showed off my full Dream Theater and Dave Matthews Band collections, they now sit hidden and unfinished in a cupboard, thanks to my digital collection of files.
The band members know that their audience is filled with people like me. Only this year band members relented and allowed their songs to be accessed via a streaming service, making them subject to the shuffling whims of streaming listeners and their playlists.
How much did the band sacrifice of themselves to take part in today’s musical scene? Am I now the Vans- and 501-wearing scuzbucket accusing them of selling out? Will my dread keep me from enjoying something I’ve been waiting for for 13 years?
Probably. I need to take the advice from the chorus in “Lateralus.”
Joe Hadsall is web editor for the Globe. Contact him at email@example.com.