30 Albums, 30 Stories: Undertow


This November, I’m telling 30 stories about 30 albums. The albums on this list are not necessarily my favorite albums, but they are the ones that are instantly associated with a time and place. All of these albums represent a chapter of my life. This is the story of those albums, and by extension, the story of me, presented mostly chronologically.

Album 18: Undertow by Tool.

I had heard Opiate and while I liked that album, Undertow took my breath away. I listened to this album constantly.

Sometimes, you run across an artist that speaks directly to the dirty, awful, hidden parts of you, the parts you work hard to keep buried. Tool was exactly that for me, and they still are.

I don’t think I understand a band more than I understand Tool. At least, from my perspective, not theirs, because I don’t really know what their perspective is. I know very little about this band. I could probably pass Maynard on the street and not even recognize him. Maybe I have. I don’t know their back story and I don’t know why they write the music they do. All I know about them is what they reveal in their music. It’s really all I need to know.

I was living with domestic violence monster in another shitty apartment in another shitty part of Detroit. I was working at Ford Motor Company. I made good money. I worked, came home and went out. That was my life. I was tired constantly. Sometimes, I’d come home and take a nap in order to go out later, and I’d wake up at two in the morning, having slept through the whole thing.

I was hiding from the dirty, awful hidden parts of me that I was desperately trying to keep hidden, even from myself. Tool touched on that and I didn’t like it, but at the same time, I didn’t mind either. It was necessary. Everything I had been through–a metric asston of monstrous experiences at that point, and we weren’t even down at the bottom of it yet–everything I had painstakingly buried was coming to the surface. Even now, when I’m feeling vulnerable, I listen to Tool. I listened to them a lot after Male died earlier this year.

Monster and I had another roommate who suddenly moved out on us (not surprising really, since who wants to live with a monster?) and left her two cats behind, both practically still kittens, so I inherited two cats. One of them died from kidney failure when he was only three. I had the other one for seventeen years. Through all the garbage and all the monsters, I had that cat. Through three time zones, countless shitty apartments, strangulation marks and black eyes, he was my constant companion. I had to put him to sleep in 2006 and I still miss him.

I was living in that same shitty apartment when Kurt Cobain died. I remember standing in my crappy bedroom that didn’t even have a bed it in, just a futon mattress on the floor, when I heard the news. Like everyone else in my generation, I listened to Nevermind a lot.

Favorite track:

Damn, this whole album is just… well, let’s just say the sexual abuse was starting to float to the surface and this song in particular made me absolutely terrified of it. Abused turning abuser is the main reason I don’t want kids of my own. Aside from that, I do think it’s one of the best song on the album.