When Tool's Lateralus came out a few years back, there was much talk about how intense it was going to be, how it was going to be all about building tension and sudden release. I ran out and scarfed up a copy shortly after the stores opened the day it was released, then drove across town to see my parents - a 40 minute drive that gave me an opportunity to hear about half of the album each way. Midway through my journey, I stopped to get a drink at a convenience store, pausing the CD as I shut off my truck. When I got back in, I unpaused it, accidently fumbling against a few buttons on the interface of my CD player, but was soon bathed in the atmospheric intro to the song "Parabola," the cleverly titled "Parabol."
As "Parabol" played, it would cycle through some gently strummed guitar with singer Maynard James Keenan on top for about two minutes, and then a heavily distorted guitar would swell in from silence - and then stop, jumping right back to the gently strummed guitar. "Man," I thought, about 5 minutes into this, "they weren't kidding when they said 'tension and release.'" This was some intense stuff - I just knew any moment now that swelling guitar was going to break into a driving, pounding, scraping rhythm. But it never did - it was just tension and tension and tension, the only release being a mild one at the end of that guitar swell. Being a big fan of ambient music, I was used to Eno pulling stuff like this, but this wasn't Eno, it was Tool - there has to be a payoff here somewhere, right?
By the time I got to my parents house, I'd been listening to this song for a good 12 minutes or so, patiently waiting for that payoff, and certain I would most likely choose to skip this very long, very minimalist track in the future. And then when I hit pause again moments before removing the CD, a thought occured to me - did I hit a button back there at the Circle K? I looked over the interface and immediately spied the problem. Unwittingly, I'd placed the just-starting track 6, "Parabol," on repeat, and had been listening to a simple two minute intro far longer than Tool ever intended. Repeat unpushed, "Parabol" flowed seamlessly into "Parabola," but that intro track was never the same to me again. Forever spoiled by 12 minutes of "what could have been," the payoff of even a great track like "Parabola" just couldn't match up to my expectations. I felt gypped - and it wasn't even the band's fault.