Review Summary: A very enjoyable debut that suffers from boring tracks and patchy song placement.Mer de Noms
, the debut album from A Perfect Circle, certainly had a great deal going for it. It presented superior musicianship from every member of the band, from Tool
vocalist Maynard James Keenan to drummer Josh Freese and guitarist Billy Howerdel. The fan-base from Tool were sure to satisfy any curiosity pertaining to the front-man's project. However, this band would be no carbon-copy of Keenan's original band, displaying a sound all its own. The makings of a truly fantastic album were present. In fact, to say that it is a fantastic album is not-too-removed from the truth of the matter.
The truth? This, albeit solid, is an incredibly hit-or-miss album.
You see, the album has some excellent songs. From the get-go, The Hollow
bursts with Maynard's soaring vocals, energetic guitar passages, and splashy drumming. Melodic, yet powerful, the song is a perfect introduction to the band, a sampling of its sound in the quintessential form. These goods songs make for the memorable moments on the album. The problem is that the forgettable songs outweigh the memorable ones.
Take, for instance, Rose
, a disorienting mess of guitar distortion and folk-style tambourine. The vocals take on a mantra-esque quality for a time, giving way to harsher efforts later. The gentler passage that interjects itself into the mix is supposed to lay a nice contrast to the darkness of the song's primary focus, but just causes confusion and is incredibly dull. The fuzzy guitar work causes nausea, and is incredibly irritating, and only gets a smidge better throughout the song, and that is not saying much at all. This track is just too boring and hard to follow.
To say that A Perfect Circle is entirely
removed from Tool is a fallacy. The filler that Tool is infamous for can be found on this album, by way of the 'song' Renholdër
. An Indian-style chant, complete with sitar, is the only way to describe this....thing. The track defies purpose and ultimately just leaves the listener wanting to get back to some ACTUAL music.
The album's saving grace is also its damning quality. This double-edged sword is a block of three songs, Judith, Orestes,
and 3 Libras
. The first in this block, Judith
is the song that put the band on the map, and is curiously the song that can be most attributed to Tool. This scathing look at religion and belief is rife with heavy, biting guitars, deep bass, and frantic drumming. Maynard's lyrics are aided by Howerdel's vocal savagery, along with bassist Paz Lenchantin at the end of the track. This one is a definite highlight, exuding energy while being enjoyable at the same time.
Next up is Orestes
. This track is gentle, yet austere. The instrumentation here is very mellow and inviting, and exudes a mood of utter beauty, which is what the song is. Maynard gives one of the best vocal performances of his career here, namely during the middle section of the song, as the instruments soar as he croons Give me one more medicated, peaceful moment
. Billy's effect laden guitar augur another heavy portion to allow Maynard to do what he does best, in an almost epic fashion.
After the previous performance, it is uncertain if the band can top itself on sheer songwriting ability. Any and all doubt is banished upon hearing 3 Libras
. Violins and finger-picked acoustic guitar lay a bed of definite beauty upon which Maynard builds with a performance that surpasses anything, even the previous song. The music soars and falls with monumental grace. The song culminates with a glorious, haunting crescendo that leaves the listener in awe. This is easily one of the most beautiful songs of the decade.
The downside to this block of excellent songs? The album could essentially end here, for there are no more memorable moments. Lone exceptions are the song Thinking of You
, a brooding monster in and of itself, and the album's closer, Over
, a wonderful conclusion, complete with Japanese strings and subdued vocals. The remainder of the album is a nonentity, for the tracks muddle together and the listener can't tell one from the other, even if they really wanted to.
A Perfect Circle's Mer de Noms
is a fantastic debut album. The musicianship is superb, the lyrics are fantastic, and each band member contributes their talents in a wonderful fashion. The only real complaint for it is the fact that the record is interspersed with mediocre, forgettable tracks that follow phenomenal efforts. This patchy distribution of songs is what ultimately what prevents this release from being a classic. The fact that the good songs are very, very enjoyable really just leaves the listener wanting more from such a talented group of musicians.
Excellent musicianship and instrumentation
"Judith," "3 Libras," "Orestes"
A solid introduction and conclusion.
The distribution of songs
The end of the album