Ask 10 different people to describe Tool, and you’ll get 10 different answers.
Some say they’re the American Radiohead, others say they’re Black Sabbath with art history degrees, while personally I’ve always described them as Rush for people who watched “My So-Called Life” in their formative years.
You can sort of triangulate their sound from those descriptions; formally experimental, emotionally intense metal, with a slight ’90s flavor.
Whatever you think of them, you have to admit that at this point they’ve made it into the canon. They’ve racked up Grammys, played in stadiums, put out ambitious concept albums, and outlasted their peers. Consider that they used to tour with ’90s standbys like Fishbone, Rollins Band, Rage Against the Machine and White Zombie, all of whom are either long disbanded or have been relegated to the nostalgia circuit.
Tool, meanwhile, is still going strong, headlining tours, going platinum, and packing top-level venues like Capital One Arena. Any moderately detailed history of rock music will have to include a long chapter on Tool.
Does that mean they’re “great”? That’s up for debate. Personally, I’d put their music in the same category as wheatgrass shots or Gertrude Stein; things that are objectively good, but if we’re being honest, are a little hard to enjoy.
Still, if Tool didn’t exist, I’d have nothing to talk to my weed guy about, so they get a pass for that.
Tool, 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25, Capital One Arena, 601 F Street NW; tickets, $75-$120