I had started writing a long and scholarly document on exactly why Three Dog Night is the greatest band of all time, but it was nearing 40 pages so I figured I’d better save it for a PhD dissertation. One can never have too many doctorates! Speaking of education, today we’re going to take a little trip to junior college. Having received well over a hundred e-mail requests for Tool-bashing from the unruly masses, it seems that I have no choice but to comply.
Chapter IV: Yes, you actually are one of “those” Tool Fans
Where’s the appeal of being a Tool fan? Is it the scavenger hunt for all the Bill Hicks references? Is it the fact that Tool is almost prog-rock, but it’s about 3% less nerdy than liking Rush? Perhaps it’s the desire to be part of the most widely-hated club of music dorks this side of Insane Clown Posse fans (even Tool hates Tool fans: “Ticks and Leeches” and “Hooker with a Penis” come to mind). The amount of zealotry surrounding Tool is legendary. Many of the people who requested that I discuss Tool actually went so far as to imply that there was absolutely nothing bad to be said about Tool. Obviously, this could not be farther from the truth.
Most bands won't even let their roadies be this ugly.
The vast majority of the e-mails about Tool had the same general gist. “I love Tool, but I hate Tool fans!” Apparently, not only are there hordes of self-righteous Tool fans who think that only people who understand Tool’s many facets are worthy of Tool fandom, but there are also a huge number of Tool fans who totally don’t get Tool and make all the other Tool fans look bad. Well, this is interesting, because I’ve only ever met the self-righteous kind. You’d think if there were ten times as many phony, retarded sheep-like Tool fans as real ones, I would have received quite a few e-mails saying “do tool their awesome cuz they got a video with a clay dude it was rad and Maynard is my god.”
No. There’s only one kind of Tool fan. The Tool fan who thinks that being a Tool fan lets them into some big secret that nobody else gets. They think that only a select few posses the secret Tool decoder ring. They’d love to believe that all the halfwits who listen to Tool actually don’t get it, but really they’re all listening to them for the same reason. The fact of the matter is, any moron can understand Tool, but the hidden appeal of Tool lies in the fact that they give the illusion of being a band for smart people. They do this, as any Tool fan knows, by throwing in jumbled references to high school psychology, obscure religious references, and miscellaneous meaningless nonsense. Bullshit or not, as long as there’s something there to figure out or interpret, it’s going to make some stoned dropout feel smart.
This is a Tool fan. Do you really want to be a Tool fan?
Certainly there’s more to like about Tool than just their connect-the-dots pseudo-intellectualism. For starters, there’s Maynard James Keenan’s (second stupidest name in pop music, next to Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble) halting, breathy, nauseatingly affected crooning. He’s like the Morrissey of hard rock. He’s also a deep, poetic lyricist, having made millions of snickering Beavis-clones feel like subversive badasses for playing songs about fisting in their mom’s minivans (to avoid a few angry e-mails, let me just humor you and say “the song isn’t really about fisting, there’s like… a whole other deeper level, man”). Honestly, it’s difficult to imagine how anyone could mistake his ham-fisted poetry for good. “My shadow / shedding skin / I’ve been picking / my scabs again.” It’s certainly a lot closer to Reznor than it is to Yeats. The man is just singing about angst and non-specific malaise, just like every other whiny hard-rock nerd. I’m sure Tool fans like to argue that he poignantly sings about his own traumatic history of abuse, but come on, it’s not like that’s a rare commodity these days; all it does it put him in the same lofty poetic stratosphere as the guy from Korn.
A lot of Tool fans also like to talk about what an amazing drummer Danny Carey is just because he can do weird time signatures and that really fast prog-rock thumpa thumpa thumpa thing. As for the others, from everything I’ve ever heard of them, their guitar player and bassist are little more than passable (in fact, having heard the song “Lateralus” on the radio, I distinctly recall conspicuously bad guitar work). Furthermore, their albums are about as consistent as Russian roulette; for every catchy pop single like 46 and 2, there’s twice the volume of unlistenable time-filling crap. I’m glad the band loves their fans enough to include a German cookie recipe and an angry answering machine message. Lord knows they didn’t buy the record expecting too many actual songs. Maybe their record label gives them some sort of bonus check if they make their CD exactly 79 minutes long.
Claymation is dark and mysterious
They’re the ultimate hybrid of the two most nerdy and worthless styles of music: heavy metal and progressive rock. They barely manage to walk the fine line between complimenting the listener’s intelligence and insulting it. They’re responsible for introducing a level of hilarious faux-satanic mysticism to pop music that we haven’t heard since Hotel California by the Eagles. Their crimes against humanity have not gone unpunished, though; they’re forever cursed to have an unbearable fanbase, terrible haircuts, and videos so gloomy that they verge on hilarious. If you’re a Tool fan and disagree with my summary, feel free to keep your worthless trap shut for once in your whining, self-involved life.
Chapter IV and Three Quarters: The Top Ten Worst Rock Songs of All Time
Rolling Stone and VH1 have been stricken with a manic desire to compile lists of everything lately, so I figure I’d be risking my critical credibility if I didn’t attempt the same. In my last column, I named Games Without Frontiers by Peter Gabriel as one of the top ten worst songs of all time, which prompted several e-mails asking what the other nine were. Well, here they are. I’d like to add that I’m actually sticking to rock songs, and I don’t mean “rock” in the VH1 sense (i.e. everything recorded in the last 50 years). I’m also sticking to things that were at least minor hits- if I could populate the list with any sort of tuneless indie crap I wanted, it would be way too hard to narrow down. Let’s get on with it.
10. Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers
I don’t know if there’s any song that can make me change the radio station faster than this one. If I don’t, I’m doomed to have that hideous female voice chanting “jeux sans frontiers” over and over in my head for the next six months. And that bit certainly isn’t all that’s wrong with the song. The lyrics are perhaps the most insipid crap ever written; look them up if you’re in the mood for a laugh.
9. Oasis – All Around The World
I know that Oasis isn’t made up of the brightest fellows in the world, but honestly, how did they think that they could fill up a seven-minute song with nothing but monotonous chanting of the same feeble chorus over and over again? Maybe they thought festooning the mix with layer upon layer of hideous wall-of-sound production would cover the fact that they weren’t saying much of anything (not that they ever do). The humorous highlight of the song is Liam’s ridiculous line “These are crazy days but they make me sheeeeeyine.” Never has a man added a more spine-tinglingly garish embellishment to the pronunciation of a word. Liam Gallagher, your hilarious accent is to be commended.
8. Kajagoogoo – Too Shy
Only the most despicable revisionist historian could possibly claim that this song was ever anything close to good. It's nothing more than a hideous irritation festival from the man who brought you the Neverending Story theme song. And by the way, their hair was WAY worse than A Flock of Seagulls.
7. Nine Days – Absolutely (Story Of A Girl)This man wants you to taste his feet
Of all the hideous, sentimental, Dawson’s Creek alterna-pop of the early 00s, this was by far the worst. This piece of crap made “Everything You Want” by Vertical Horizon sound like “Ace of Spades.” The opening line of this song is “This is the story of a girl who cried a river and drowned the whole world.” Jesus Christ, what happened to rock and roll? The only honorable end for the members of Nine Days would be suicide, but even that would be pretty bad because someone would surely play “Adam’s Song” by Blink 182 at their funeral. I’m afraid that they’ll have to live out the rest of their lives being “the band who paved the way for the All-American Rejects.”
6. Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar On Me
Just think for a minute about how disgusting this song really is. The man’s FEET are HOT AND STICKY. And not only that, but they are SWEET. One would presume that he is inviting you to taste HIS HOT, STICKY, FEET. If that doesn’t make you gag, surely the ugliness of the 80s production will. As a hilarious side note: some loser actually e-mailed me telling me that I should devote a column to making fun of Def Leppard, because he was under the bizarre impression that they actually had fans. In fact, he himself was a Def Leppard fan. I think he even ran a Def Leppard website with its own domain name. This world is seriously a scary and messed up place, people.
5. Reef – Place Your Hands
A minor MTV hit in 1997. You might be wondering how such a non-entity in music history could make it to such a high position on such a prestigious list. I’ll tell you why. This song is wack. It is extremely wack to the point of being unthinkably awful. If you remember this song, you’ll recall that the first four words (a gruffly, tunelessly screamed “OH PLACE YOUR HANDS”) were enough to make anyone turn off their TV in disgust. If you don’t remember it, download it right now. I dare you to try to make it through 15 seconds. It is the ultimate endurance test.
4. Green Day – Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)Hahaha, the guy from Boston is so cool that he wears his own t-shirt
If you graduated from high school, appeared in the cast of a TV show whose run was coming to an end, or went to a teenager’s funeral in the late 90s, I don’t have to explain how bad this song is. There are two kinds of people in this world: people who hate this song with all the passion their bones can muster, and complete fucking idiots.
3. Boston – More Than A Feeling
A number of you are probably thinking “hey, come on, I kinda like that song.” Yes, everyone kind of likes that song, which is the source of its horrible insidious power. This is the musical equivalent of McDonalds: it’s designed to be packed with so much artificial crap that it’s bound to appeal in some way to just about anyone. It’s got more overdubs than My Bloody Valentine and more sap than a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s. No matter how musically credible you are, no matter how much cutting-edge indie rock you listen to, no matter how good in bed you are, this song is your secret shame. It is the song that makes you uncool.
2. Staind – It’s Been Awhile
It’s amazing that the sort of person who would listen to this song would also probably the sort of person who would make fun of emo kids. As lame as emo is, as whiny and annoying as it is, not even the most lugubrious Dashboard Confessional song even comes close to the lameness of Staind. Being whiny and pathetic isn’t even half of what’s wrong with the song, either; the lyrics just don’t make sense. They do not parse properly in any sort of English grammar. Take this one for example: “It’s been awhile since I could stand on my own two feet again.” Now, if he were saying that it had been a while since he could stand on his own two feet, that would make sense. But “again?” Just what the hell tense is this supposed to be in? The song is bad enough already without this kind of inexcusably sloppy songwriting.
1. Kansas – Carry On Wayward Son
Songwriters of today probably have no hope of ever matching the absolute tragic ridiculousness of this song. When listening to it, one can only be amazed that the record-buying public could be so collectively stupid as to like something this amazingly bad. Maybe it was just some sort of huge inside joke, and people were only pretending to like Kansas because they thought it would be funny. Maybe they were just buying copies of Leftoverture to snickeringly goad Kansas into making more such hilarious monstrosities. Maybe the only reason the song still enjoys constant classic rock airplay is because, after all these years, the line “Though my mind could think I still was a madman” hasn’t lost any of its inherent side-splitting comedy value. Whatever the reasons for its continued popularity, we need not let this song be the bane of our radio-listening existence. Let’s just think of it as a beautifully tragic thing, like a retarded child falling off a tricycle into the La Brea Tar Pits.
If you’d care to suggest another band for me to cruelly mock, you can always feel free to do so by e-mailing me at [email protected]. If you're the guy who e-mailed me about being a Def Leppard fan, for the love of God, get some help.
Maria Mitchell is shown holding a telescope to each eye, using them to ogle passing hunks on the street below. OOOGA! Her tongue rolls out like a firehose, her eyes comically bulging through the ends of the telescopes.
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