photo manipulation by nacrowe
as i probably made abundantly clear in a recent review of the book MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM about the early 2000s stateside indie music scene, i have a strong bias against rock music of that period. my main gripe was that the bands generally were too nostalgic and ultimately poor imitations of bygone scenes and eras.
two forward-thinking bands that standout during that period who obliterated that safety net were EL PASO's AT THE DRIVE-IN and LONG ISLAND's GLASSJAW. both were abrasive and quirky and seemed to be informed but not beholden to the POST-PUNK, HARDCORE and INDIE scenes that preceded them.
i'll save AT THE DRIVE-IN for another day, but in my mind both bands are similar in that they seemed to delight in creating obtuse sonic and lyrical landscapes that were impressionistic and expansive which allowed the listener to project themselves onto. GLASSJAW to me is particularly all about vibe. vocalist DARYL PALUMBO is renowned for his phrasing style which is equal parts CHINO MORENO (DEFTONES, TEAM SLEEP, CROSSES, PALMS) and MIKE PATTON (FAITH NO MORE, MR. BUNGLE, FANTÔMAS, TOMAHAWK, PEEPING TOM, LOVAGE), which found him changing keys and tempos as he saw fit creating a jarring yet incredibly melodic compliment to guitarist JUSTIN BECK's crushing angular riffage and reverb-drenched ringing waves of distortion. the closest analogue i can think of is JANE'S ADDICTION and TOOL at their most expansive and adventurous, when they seemed content with just exploring sonic space to create hypnotic looping mantras of blissful feedback and poly-rhythmic drumming.
to me GLASSJAW split the difference between the brutality and immediacy of HARDCORE with the dynamism and experimentalism inherent in the best INDIE music of the 80s and 90s. i'd even trace their use of odd song structure elements and instrumentation to that of earlier POST-PUNK tradition. that's all well and good, but to me their music comes off as incredibly deliberate and personal, without being obvious. they are definitely pointing at something and i just haven't figured it out yet and maybe that is the point. great art is supposed to be about a reaction and i have always listened back to their catalogue to remind myself of what rock music is still capable of.
photo by nacrowe
every time i enter FRANKFURT AIRPORT, the main international transit hub of my youth, it is never lost on me that the place itself is more or less the same. only i have changed over the last 20+ years.
thats kind of the experience of seeing TOOL in concert over multiple tour cycles, since each one is 8-10 years apart. its an odd sense of deja-vu or a time warp or something. the last time i saw them was during the 10,000 Days cycle and the LATERALUS cycle before that. love the band but im not big on big corporate arena shows. you always feel screwed when you can't get better seats and you get the feeling those below you either paid royally in a secondary market or worse, got them as a corporate gift like box seats at a YANKEE game. i guess the demand is just so great after so much time that there is no easy answer to this conundrum in fairness to them.
but the actual show this past saturday (with KILLING JOKE opening!) was epic, TOOL are like the second coming of BLACK SABBATH meets LED ZEPPELIN meets RUSH meets CAPTAIN BEEFHEART. i wasn't super-enthused on the last album since it feels like everything post-LATERALUS is just a rehash of it, like they are using the same tricks (mind you, those tricks are beyond cool). i just wish they'd push the audience a bit more at this stage in their career since they have nothing left to prove.
unless filling arenas that screw over fans is a goal of theirs. if you catch them this go around, thats cool. if not they'll back around. in 10 years.
photo by nacrowe
t seems incredible that this book exists, given the mercurial and closely-guarded nature of TOOL / A PERFECT CIRCLE / PUSCIFER frontman MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN, whose legendary live performances notoriously find him donning an eclectic assortment of stage personas/characters/costumes meant to provoke and obfuscate, allowing him to separate his art from himself. in this manner he has continued to maintain a balance with his family and more importantly his own sense of self.
so it is a little more than intriguing that his collaborative memoir A PERFECT UNION OF CONTRARY THINGS (BACKBEAT BOOKS 2016) written by long-time friend SARAH JENSEN even exists.
this is most definitely the first memoir i have read that has the subject written about in third person, which structurally and stylistically has numerous advantages. structurally it gives the book some distance from its subject, not having to worry itself all the time with the personal feelings and perspective of KEENAN, instead allowing for an unbound narrator to integrate multiple points of view into the narrative. stylistically it makes this memoir read more like a novel, which intriguingly makes KEENAN as a "character" another entity for his audience to interpret and project unto, much like his music.
the main takeaway i got from reading his memoir is that KEENAN is the type of artist that is constantly seeking to challenge his audience, peers and most importantly, himself, to see things from an altered perspective. this need to tinker with formulas and audience expectations while maintaining integrity puts him, in my perspective, as one of the most dynamic frontman of his era (the other being renaissance man MIKE PATTON of FAITH NO MORE / MR. BUNGLE / FANTÔMAS / PEEPING TOM / DEAD CROSS).
given his enigmatic nature and numerous outside focuses (wine-making, brazilian jiu-jitsu, comedy, etc.), this memoir was his way of elucidating to his audience the common thread throughout binds them all: MATHEMATICS. you really get the sense from this book his sensitivity and delight in discovering the patterns, routines and rhythms of nature that bind us all and the myriad of ways mankind has devised uses for them, whether militarily, artistically or even agriculturally.
well worth seeking out and reading. don't worry his mysterious, enigmatic persona is still very much intact, if only slightly more defined at the edges.