Book 58: A Perfect Union of Contrary Things by Sarah Jensen

Maynard James Keenan – singer and creative force behind Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer – is the greatest human being that ever lived.

So much more than an accomplished musician, according to Sarah Jensen’s new hagiography: athlete, artist, actor, philosopher, spiritualist, humorist, provocateur, winemaker extraordinaire. Everything Maynard does he does well and with preternatural ease.

I read this one for 16-year-old Adam, the angry long-haired kid who worshipped Tool. He thought Maynard was a genius and would have been inclined to accept every word of Jensen’s fawning assessment.

I still like Maynard’s music but 34-year-old Adam expects a little more from his biographies.

Where is the crippling self-doubt that afflicts every artist, particularly early on in their careers? It’s hinted at but never explored. The regrets, the creative clashes? We know there have been some but pivotal moments such as when Tool’s original bassist Paul D’amour leaves the band are barely touched upon. The band’s well-known dalliances with drugs are reduced to a single passage about Maynard going on a peyote spirit quest in the desert. What about Maynard’s temper tantrums and withering abuse of journalists? Where’s the personal drama, the warts and the battlescars?

Not in this sanitised, self-serving, neutered and bloodless book.

More importantly, where’s the music? Jensen dedicates more than 100 pages to Keenan’s prosaic childhood before he finally meets his future bandmates in LA. Then suddenly her pace quickens and she skips over the creative process. She doesn’t dissect the songs, talk about what they mean or why they work. She just barrels on to the next triumphant example of Maynard’s brilliance.

His vineyard gets several chapters; seminal albums like 10,000 Days and Thirteenth Step get just a sentence or two. Even Maynard’s time working in a pet store gets more space than his records. (Maynard was really, really great at retail in case you were wondering).

Meanwhile, Jensen – an old friend of Keenan’s apparently – literally does not speak to a single person with a bad word to say about him.

Don’t ask me to believe there aren’t any.

This is like the biography a cult member would write about a cult leader: ironic, given it’s about the man who’s written songs like Eulogy. Someone who tells his fans to think critically, question authority and call bullshit.

Well I’m calling it.

Author: adamgartrell

Political journalist drowning in books

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