A Perfect Circle



July 26th, 2005 | 151 replies

Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist

I'd like to begin by taking you on a brief journey. Don't worry, it's not a long journey by any means, although in a way, it takes us to a place rather unrecognisable to where we are today. I'm talking about last November; specifically November 2, 2004. The politically aware amongst you will recognise that date as the day when US President George W Bush was re-elected for 4 more years in the White House, putting paid to global hopes that 4 years would have been enough for the USA to collectively decide that enough was enough. However, as the ancient saying goes, "every cloud has a silver lining", and in this case the silver lining was in large part made up of one thing and one thing alone: it looked as if the anti-Bush musical bandwagon had finally unceremoniously lost its wheels, and with these wheels had gone the bleatings of pop stars all over the world who were frankly talking about something on which many of them had very little basic knowledge. It's at this stage that A Perfect Circle enter our narrative, and with them comes their latest album, eMotive.

In a way, the shock of this album was attenuated by the faint air of foreboding that was hanging over it. For a start, it's a cover album. While there may well be wonderful, earth-changing cover albums out there, it's probably fair to say that none immediately spring to mind. Leaving past commercial success aside for a minute, there's also the issue of creativity here. To many people a band deciding to release a cover album is a tacit admission that not only are they out of ideas, but that they're unwilling to really put in the graft to make the ideas come. Secondly, there was the timing of the album. Although the memories are fading now, it's worth remembering just how crazy the political music frenzy had got by the end of last year. Led by Green Day's renaissance as the undisputed heavyweight champions of pop-punk, you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing maddeningly oblique whinings from people barely older than the fanbase they were allegedly educating about the evils of a man that many of them had little but the vaguest interest in. Worse still, any fan of A Perfect Circle had always hoped that the band would somehow prove about this. After all, frontman Maynard James Keenan is famously enigmatic, with little about him being known, beyond his central creed of "think for yourself". Even to the most rabid A Perfect Circle fan it's clear that there's something of a contradiction between this and releasing an album on US Election day after repeatedly speaking out against the President.

What's worse of course is that all this was so avoidable. One of the great ironies of last year's juxtaposition between music and politics is that it didn't spawn a truly great album, even though many bands tried. With a lineup including Billy Howerdel, Maynard Keenan and Josh Freese, it wasn't absolutely beyond the realms of possibility that A Perfect Circle could salvage victory and produce an album that took classic songs and added a new interpretation that changed their meaning for a new audience. However, there is little danger of Lennon and Led Zeppelin's music being associated with A Perfect Circle based on this. After all, the problem here is not with the reasoning behind the album. The problem here is with the music, which ranks as one of the most diabolically terrible collections of songs that I can recall actually being prepared to spend money on. While going through a track by track of this would be too painful both for me and for you, there are particular lowlights of the album that need attention.

Imagine. OK, so it's a bold idea. Taking John Lennon's vision of a Utopian idyll, and turning into a dark, brooding song sounds like the kind of idea that's just crazy enough to work. It doesn't. You know how when you're driving you sometimes inadvertently start the car in gear? This song is like that, only rather than doing the obvious thing and putting the car into the right gear, the band just carry on juddering, without actually going anywhere. While the song's bad, the accompanying video is yet worse. Combining vivid scenes from the Iraq war with the music, it's the kind of pseudo-art project that an artistically retarded high school student would consider powerful, rendering the song utterly without merit.

Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums. The real killer about this track is its positioning in the album. Coming in just when you think that the album's drawing to a close, this takes one of the band's finest songs in Pet, adds an industrial background, and turns down all sensitivity in Keenan's voice, so he's left growling the vocals. It's 5 1/2 minutes of pure aural torture for any listener, but for a fan of the band it's particularly hard to take.

Gimme Gimme Gimme bucks the trend of the rest of the album, during which Keenan's vocals often verge on the completely inaudible, but here the band go too far the other way by taking the Black Flag song, and seemingly arbitrarily deciding that this is going to be "the heavy one", regardless of what merits such a plan may or many not have. When The Levee Breaks takes one of Led Zeppelin's most pounding, Bonham-driven songs and sucks the life out of it in such a way that you can't help but wonder whether the sepulchral figure of Billy Howerdel is an enlarged leech, sucking all momentum and creative ideas out of the music.

There is one bright spot to the album (relatively speaking), and that's Passive. Contrary to what is often reported though, this is not an A Perfect Circle original song, but a cover of Vacant by Tapeworm. Amid such poor quality music though, Passive becomes the clear stand out track on the album, and one of, if not the only song here that you can envisage listening to again.

Having looked over this review the inevitable question rears its head; am I being too harsh here? Am I jumping on the flailing corpse of an album that received a backlash as much for its timing as its content? The honest answer here is a definite no. Although the sheer opportunism of the album is maddening for music fans, there is simply no overlooking the paucity of the fare on offer here. While A Perfect Circle were never realistically going to reinvent modern rock as we knew it, in Mer De Noms and 13th Step they had created two commendable, perfectly solid albums that had started moving them out of the towering shadow of Tool, the most famous project of any member of the band. With this album they not only destroyed that reputation, but also possibly left a permanent stain on any legacy that the band will have. I can't put it any clearer than to say, "Do not buy this album". It doesn't matter if you like any of the projects that the musicians involved in the band have worked on before, there is to all intents and purposes nothing enjoyable about the music here. If you have a particularly high-speed Internet connection, downloading it might be an option, if you're into masochism. Those of you who are not are better off taking the money you were going to spend on the album and donating it to the Republican Party in the hope that they'll wonder what they're doing wrong when teenagers start giving them their savings. It'll be as rewarding as listening to this.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
July 26th 2005


I tried to give it 0.5 but for some reason it wouldn't let me. :-/ So bear in mind that the actual score I've given it is at least twice as good as I think it is. And needless to say, I love you too.

July 26th 2005


Album Rating: 1.0

I'm so glad I didn't buy this album. I would've missed the chance to go on a Pixy Stix binge that way.

July 26th 2005


Album Rating: 3.0

APC's poorest work by a long shot. Passive is however an excellent song, and I don't mind listening to a couple of the others. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding and Freedom of Choice are ok. The rest arn't worth listening to. Do me a favour and get those tracks (and any others you may be interested in) and download them. But before you do that, go out and *buy* Mer de Noms and Thirteenth Step.

July 26th 2005


Album Rating: 1.0

This is a shocker. Still, this isn't so bad that it deserves half a star. 1 star from me.

July 26th 2005


Album Rating: 1.0

*appaluads after reading review* I've only heard passive from this album and by what you have said I shouldn't bother listening to any others.

July 26th 2005


Album Rating: 1.5

You speak the truth. This is just a boring album.

July 27th 2005


Album Rating: 1.0

It pains me to listen to it. I thought if I listened to it more, I'd like it more. It was the opposite, and now I hate it more than ever. Stupid stupid stupid.. mm.. Pixy Stix...

July 27th 2005


Med is seeming very hawt right now.

That's right, I said "hawt".

July 27th 2005


When the Levee Breaks is okay as a kind of loungy, laid back thing.. background music. I *really* loved Passive. Everything else though... Agh. I couldn't believe it. Great review. I like your vocabulary because it's far bigger than mine. *nods*.

July 27th 2005


Album Rating: 0.5

Now that we've said "hawt" and mentioned Pixi Stixs. I grant myself permission to say that this review was *woot-woot* and IMO, A Perfect Circle is the opposite of *woot-woot*.

But the song 'Passive' from the Constantine soundtrack=sex. Sorry for the unnescessary internet slang

Little Man being Erased
July 27th 2005


Awesome review, I love it. As for the album, I can't say because I couldn't even bring myself to listen to it, but I knew it would be a steaming pile of garbage.

Adam Jones is GOD
July 28th 2005


Album Rating: 1.5

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*wakes up for passive*zzzzzzzzzzzz.

I knew it was going to be bad, and the videos released far own anything on this album.

August 5th 2005


Agreed. I saw these guys play whilst they toured for 13th Step, the show was fantastic as were the previous albums. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed with this effort. Apart from Passive, there isn't a song I listen to on this album regularly.

August 18th 2005


Album Rating: 4.0

I think I'm one of two people who liked this better than Mer De Noms.

August 18th 2005


Thirteenth Step was already pretty awful...I'm not even going to touch this with a ten foot pole. Mer De Noms...I kinda like that one however.

August 18th 2005


Album Rating: 2.5

good review but i disagree with some basic facts..... if your saying that when the levee breaks is a zepplin songs its not they even covered its an old blues song thats why in the jacket it says public domain and it does say that Passive is an original written by keneen and several others from the band. I strangly disagree with the 1 star however. I like your review and support your opinion on several songs actually most of them. Passive is a great song and i think counting bodies like sheep is a good song as well. I think that the song i built to fall asleep too, becuase i think they new the majority of the people would not like it notice the parts where its like go to sleep and then a ear piercing sound comes in then the eerie repeted line comes in saying go back to sleeep..... very good idea and a good song. I would also say that the cover What's Goin On (Marvin Gaye) was well done. I dont like imagine but i find a good idea to put a song withh depressive lyrics in minor becuase john lenon gives the song a montonitic voice this however shows the subtle anger in it.

over -2.5.......3 at tops

August 22nd 2005


... you guys know its possible to rate things 0s, right?

Adam Jones is GOD
August 22nd 2005


Album Rating: 1.5

Yes, but while Passive is present, you can save that 0 for the new Korn album

September 13th 2005


Album Rating: 1.0

I have to say this is the worst APC album yet, but I for some reason like Imagine. Passive is good, and if Counting Bodies like Sheep wasn't so long it would be ok. Everything else sucks though.

September 19th 2005


Album Rating: 0.5

i feel the need to bump this album due to its hideousness.

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