By: Timothy Coffman, Columnist
Featured image courtesy of wrif.com
After 14 years of studio silence, A Perfect Circle finally released its third album, “Eat the Elephant.” A supergroup of sorts, A Perfect Circle is centered around three members: Billy Howerdel, James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins, and Maynard James Keenan from Tool, along with a revolving cast of other musicians. After bursting onto the rock scene with “Mer De Noms” in 2000, the group took a hard rock approach while fusing in progressive passages on their albums. This came to a head with their next album “Thirteenth Step” and the cover album “Emotive.” These records are considered modern classics and mandatory listening for any alternative rock fan. Now, after more than a decade, how does the new music from this band hold up?
This album is going to be a shock for most fans who enjoy A Perfect Circle’s hard rock tendencies. This album is predominantly progressive rock, and the album is more subdued than is expected for this group. While featuring rock instrumentation, the album is driven by lush piano arrangements rather than guitar-centric melodies. This allows Keenan to flex his muscles as a singer by dialing back any screaming vocals for soothing ethereal vocals.
The shift in direction has also lead to different melodic structures, such as the extended outro during the closer “Get the Lead Out” and the most mainstream sounding song on the record “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.” I would recommend the latter track for any fan of popular music who is looking for something more musically sophisticated. I must also commend the producer on this record, Dave Sardy, who tends to focus primarily on film score production. His experience with recording orchestras and classical music benefits greatly in this situation, making for one of the most well-produced albums I have heard all year.
There does seem to be a definitive change in the direction for A Perfect Circle with this album when compared to their previous body of work. With their previous singles focusing on heavier rock, this may be a bit jarring for some fans. However, I do not see this as a bad sign at all. While it is certainly different, I would have been disappointed if the band had continued to put out music that sounded like early-2000s rock. The change of direction becomes the album’s greatest strength because it distances itself from the trends that have identified them. Instead of sounding like themselves, this album sounds like a musically mature version of a band that was already destined for success from the start. This album is definitely one of the better albums that is going to be released this year and a must-listen for die-hard fans.