Two of my all-time favorite bands are fronted by the same person, Maynard James Keenan. The two bands are the extremely original and boundary pushing Tool, and the kinda sounds a lot like a less progressive Tool, A Perfect Circle. A big part of the reason that both of these bands are so high up on my list of favorites has a lot to do with Maynard. The vocals, both the lyrics and the presentation, really make me feel very deeply. This is no small feat, if you know me, you are probably aware that I do not pay much attention to vocals. And if these bands did not have exceptional music, I wouldn’t pay attention to these vocals either.
But without blathering on for too long, let’s get right to the point. A lot of Tool and APC songs I relate directly to my struggle with mental illness and my relationship with my mother.
It seems like practically every Tool song is about breaking free from yourself, seeing the world in a more clear light, accepting imperfection, embracing the shadows, being who you feel you really are.
This is no more brilliantly summed up in the song “46 & 2”, a song about the next stage of human evolution [humans have 44 autosomes & 2 chromosomes, the next stage of evolution may be to have 46 & 2]. Here are the lyrics:
“I’ve been wallowing in my own confused
And insecure delusions
For a peace to cross me over
Or a word to guide me in.
I wanna feel the changes coming down.
I wanna know what I’ve been hiding in.
I choose to live and to
Grow, take and give and to
Move, learn and love and to
Cry, kill and die and to
Be paranoid and to
Lie, hate and fear and to
Do what it takes to move through.”
-Tool “46 & 2” Aenima (1996)
The first stanza really describes with great clarity what it feels like to be in the middle of a deep depression. You can just sit and stagnate and wait for something to happen to you to make you better. And you wait so long that you begin to desire the ability to feel anything again, even if what you feel is yourself getting worse.
The second stanza is all about choosing to live your life in whatever direction that means. Choose to live with all of your strengths and flaws. So many people make goals that ignore their faults. And being bipolar, that is impossible. You have to make realistic goals that embrace your disease and your struggles and the eventuality that you will need help again.
A song by A Perfect Circle that always got me from the first time I heard it was “The Noose”. I bought this album on the day it was released in 2003 and I was immediately left in tears by the third track. I was not speaking to my mother at the time, I would not speak to her for at least 9 more months, but this song was everything I wanted to say to her. It is extremely mean and angry and lays out the response a person has for an extremely destructive force in their life. Here are the lyrics that still fill me with emotion:
“Recall the deeds as if
They’re all someone else’s
Now you stand reborn before us all
So glad to see you well
And not to pull your halo down
Around your neck and tug you to the ground
But I’m more than just a little curious
How you’re planning to go about
Making your amends to the dead
To the dead”
The first stanza reminds me exactly of what it felt like to talk to my mom about our past. She would mention everything as if they never had any gravity. She would incessantly remark on how much better she was doing, and while she never had the savior complex that this song hints at, she never could understand why I was never happy for her when things were going alright.
The second stanza continues to push the savior/ angel complex that my mother did not have. But the last lines at the time were my thoughts exactly on how she was going to make things better with her recently deceased mother, or how she was going to say she was sorry to me if I went through with suicide I had attempted just months earlier.
Today those final lines speak more to me about me then my mother now. How am I going to make my amends, she is already gone.