Here’s a little perspective for ya. The last time A Perfect Circle released an album of original material 2003’s Thirteenth Step, iTunes was only five months old and Facebook was still six months away from launching! So after starving for new material for fifteen years, I was ready to sink my teeth into their latest release Eat The Elephant (released April 20th, 2018). Given that they have taken such a long break between albums, I had no idea what to expect from A Perfect Circle and was wholeheartedly satisfied that they essentially picked up right where they had left off.
Maynard James Keenan continues to pen lyrics with venom rather than ink, and many of the songs are laced with dire social commentary and fatalistic perceptions. On “The Doomed” he sings, “What of the pious, the pure of heart, the peaceful? What of the meek, the mourning, and the merciful? All doomed.” On “Disillusioned” he speaks to the way we consume media today: “Addicts of the immediate keep us obedient and unaware, Feeding this mutation, this Pavlovian despair.” Clearly the last fifteen years haven’t done anything to subdue Maynard’s pessimism.
Sonically, A Perfect Circle achieve that ever so elusive sweet spot, sounding fresh while still maintaining a familiarity within their songs. “Hourglass” sounds like a metal-infused Devo track, a band that A Perfect Circle seems to have had a fetish for throughout their career. Songs like “By and Down the River” and “DLB” show that the band is still not afraid to mix some softer, more piano-driven melodies into their more common hard-rock-driven-guitar approach. What I feel is lacking on Eat The Elephant, however, is a clear-cut, anthemic banger of a single and with the way music is consumed these days, it could have done them wonders. Mer de Noms had “Judith” and Thirteenth Step had “Weak and Powerless,” I just don’t feel like any of the twelve tracks here hit that particular level.
There is plenty to love on Eat The Elephant. Maynard seems to have peaked as a lyricist, and though the band has matured and substituted members (Maynard and guitarist Billy Howerdel are the only two original members), they are still as cutting and fresh as when they first burst onto the scene over eighteen years ago. There’s some playfulness on the album as well. “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish” is an odd, meandering, pessimistic rant that somehow fits perfectly into the fabric of the album. “Get the Lead Out” closes the album and demonstrates a willingness to experiment and expand their sound. The interplay of keyboards, synthesizers, and percussion is comparable to what Alt-J has been hashing out over the past couple of years. So, the final verdict is that Mer de Noms is a masterpiece, and Eat the Elephant does not reach that echelon. However, it is an extremely satisfying and well-rounded work of art. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another fourteen years for the next album!
Written by Lee Ferguson
*edited by Kate Erickson