April 16, 2018 A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant (Album Review)
A blissfully ignorant perception of time is often the plague of many talented musicians. Allowing their craft to simmer in a kettle of critical analysis and the pursuit of perfection results in satisfactory success or the black hole of discontent. For others, it is time who betrays them of their desire to produce the discography of legends. Moseying out of a fourteen year hiatus, A Perfect Circle embraces their rumored existence and historic past with fourth studio album, Eat the Elephant, via BMG on Friday, April 20, 2018.
Formed in lead Vocalist Maynard James Keenan’s small Hollywood cottage in the late nineties, A Perfect Circle remains pillared by both Keenan (Tool, Puscifer) and Guitarist Billy Howerdel (Ashes Divide). The duo took on the great shadow of Tool with the bat of an eye, earning major achievement with hits such as “Judith,” “Pet” and “The Outsider.” Their Grunge-worthy Hard Rock became a 2000’s staple, converting a majority of Tool snobs into A Perfect Circle of new devotees.
The band’s indefinite hiatus came as a way for Keenan to balance his other bands and projects such as his winery in Jerome, Arizona. Howerdel continued to write music for A Perfect Circle, Ashes Divide, and score video games and movies. The band re-surfaced on a small performing circuit in 2010, teasing fans in hopes of a new album announcement. No such luck. After seven more years, Eat the Elephant (which took less than a year to record and master) was allowed its debut.
Among a revolving door of touring-only and recording-only members, the current lineup consists of Bassist Matt McJunkins (Queens of the Stone Age), Drummer Jeff Friedl (Puscifer), and Guitarist James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins). Iha will be subbed by Greg Edwards during the US portion of A Perfect Circle’s spring tour, due to preparation for the Smashing Pumpkins’ summer reunion tour.
Now, if current singles “The Doomed” and “TalkTalk” have not properly prepped fans for what Eat The Elephant holds, be prepared to be… unprepared. The album’s self-titled opening track “Eat The Elephant” is a dismal coffee-house manifesto, erring on the piano-ridden tunes of The Bad Plus. The track is haunted by those ivory keys, blatantly stating, “where to begin eludes me” while flirtatiously challenging the current economic state to “just take the swing/just take the bite/just go all in.” Suggesting a nothing-left-to-lose attitude over jazzy-drums, whispering cymbals, and tempered bass; the track is a molten submarine of easy listening.
Sliding into “Disillusioned,” a sheared electric guitar begins leading listeners into an Alt-Rock tune, highlighting measured and lullabic vocals from Keenan. Soon, the first-rate riff tapers off into a serenade of pristine piano and ambient echo. The misty solo builds back into the Alt-Rock intro and continues this hand-off of deconstruction and piece-together for the remainder of the song. Keenan’s vocals are airy and smooth, calmly addressing materialism and unrealistic ambitions: “time to put the silicone obsession down/take a look around/find a way in the silence.”
“So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish” possesses airy, upbeat, verging-on-Pop aspects of synth zingers and hefty drums. Glazing the track with effervescent strings, the only hint of “Rock” resides in a loop of another catchy guitar riff. Stick around. The song’s merry characteristics are no match for Keenan’s lyrical mourning of Carrie Fisher, David Bowie, and Muhammad Ali. A genuine sorrow snakes through the Pseudo-Pop track, delivering it from being over-the-top while connecting with the hurt of losing such significant icons.
Additionally, notable songs “The Doomed” (a theatrical reflection on religion), “TalkTalk” (ripping the band-aid off of those “thoughts and prayers”) and “Get The Lead Out” (the Alice-In-EDM-Wonderland concluding track) are a thorough traipse through the band’s risk-taking versatility. Yet, as different as Eat The Elephant may be… it works. It all works. A Perfect Circle is still there, fans just have to dig a little deeper. That is why CrypticRock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.