It is not lightly that I make the statement: “A Perfect Circle changed my life.” There were a number of bands — or more specifically, albums — that that affected my tumultuous teenage years. One such album was Mer de Noms. I was in the eleventh grade and struggling with what I suppose are stereotypical problems for many a teenager; a difficult household situation, self-identity and religion, angst and anger…you get the picture. Music, like many of you reading this review, was my escape. Being passed around my class at the time was a CD by a band I had as of yet known nothing about. I sheepishly asked whether I could be the next to give it a listen. My then-Christian-self was both appalled and besotted by the power of the language and beauty of the music, being enchantingly beautiful while at the same time utterly demonic. I was entranced by the melodies yet shamed by how it challenged my religion, going against all that I had thought I knew. I had always been very skeptical of my own faith but had nonetheless tried to be a good Christian; fearful and devout (or at least so I told myself). I wanted to stop, but I just couldn’t stop listening. I would pray for forgiveness after each playthrough. I look back on this time now and laugh at that young, ignorant me…but it was a very transformative few weeks.
You’re such an inspiration for the ways
That I’ll never ever choose to be
Oh so many ways for me to show you
How the savior has abandoned you
Fuck your God
Your Lord and your Christ
He did this
Took all you had and
Left you this way
Still you pray, you never stray
Never taste of the fruit
You never thought to question why
The epiphany that began my “fall from grace” was the most freeing moment of my life. That yoke that was religion was removed from my neck, my blinders fell to the side…I was free…free from thinking that Jesus was watching me masturbate. Free from the fear that one day all my terrible thoughts and impure desires would be shared with all those that I loved and I would be shunned. It was all bullshit. All of it. Every. Single. Word. I cried with joy. My infatuation with Maynard, discovering Tool and later Puscifer, all of those steps on my “Keenan” musical journey came after. Judith, Magdelina, Rose…my new scripture.
The Thirteenth Step was released during my hedonistic university years and was the soundtrack to many a sordid experience — licking the plastic cover of that gorgeous case would probably still make gums go numb. A very different experience from the first album, The Thirteenth Step is still easily one of my all-time favourite albums, with The Package, Weak and Powerless, The Outsider & Pet being (in my humble opinion) modern masterpieces. Considering the theme of the album being substance abuse and addiction, it was a bit of a personal soundtrack for my life at the time.
eMOTIVe, unlike the latter two albums, missed the mark for me completely. I just didn’t connect with the content and the message at the time. I was into heavier metal and darker themes and while I still could appreciate the music, it did not find its way onto my playlists, except for maybe Imagine and Gimme Gimme Gimme. Nonetheless, APC remained a band I returned to at least once a week, both out of nostalgia and because, well, it is still hard to find better music.
Fourteen years later, Billy and Keenan have finally returned with Eat the Elephant, bringing with them the talents of Matt McJunkins (bass on “By and Down the River” and “Feathers”) and Jeff Friedl (drums), as well as Matt Chamberlain, Isaac Carpenter and others. The album has been very well received by critics, boasting an 80 on Metacritic at the time of me writing this piece, and I’m going to add my own personal praise for very good reason; it’s awesome.
Having read this far, you should know that there is obviously a great deal of bias where my personal feelings are concerned…but I’m genuinely not bothered. Music is subjective, not objective, and this album is everything and more. A few singles were released before the album dropped, building hype and excitement; The Doomed, The Disillusioned, TalkTalk, and So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish – all fantastic songs, with The Doomed becoming an instant personal favourite…and probably one of my favourite APC tracks to date. One needs to have some kind of Christian backstory to fully comprehend the message and the lyrics, which offers a counterpoint to the eight beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5. It’s a powerful critique of the attitudes that are supposed to be considered holy or pious but are in fact — in this day and age — fruitless. It is both musically and lyrically the best track in my most humble of opinions, with The Disillusioned a close second. The latter track is probably the more intelligent, dissecting the obsessions with smart-phones and other tech and our disconnection from reality. Maybe that’s just Maynard showing his age, but as tech-savvy as I consider myself, I found myself wholly agreeing with the points he makes. It’s also an incredibly beautiful song, lyrics aside.
What of the pious, the pure of heart, the peaceful?
What of the meek, the mourning, and the merciful?
I’m still exploring the rest of the album, having had it pretty much on repeat since release. It’s very much a social commentary on varying religious, political and societal issues, which is very much in the vein of past albums; picking up on an issue and building a story around the topic. It’s an experience; haunting, beautiful, sad, powerful, forceful and emotional. Maynard’s vocals were absolutely on point and the instrumentals, while definitely not metal, sit somewhere between a hard/alternative rock with some very exploratory directions, including a fistful or two of piano and a sprinkle of synth and scratching on Get the Lead Out. It’s similar but different…very much how The Thirteenth Step confused and surprised many when released. The artists have changed, matured, and redefined themselves but hopefully, so have the listeners.
With all of A Perfect Circle’s music, the themes can be somewhat depressing, dark, and foreboding, and Eat the Elephant is no exception. It’s music that makes you think if you care to really listen, and listen you should. Do yourself a favour and check out the album. This one has already found a permanent place on my playlist and, like others past, I will be listening to it for years to come.
|1.||“Eat the Elephant”||5:13|
|5.||“So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish“||4:26|
|7.||“By and Down the River“||5:04|
|12.||“Get the Lead Out”||6:40|
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