REVIEW: A PERFECT CIRCLE – “Eat The Elephant”
Most of us are familiar with that old question, “How do you eat an elephant?” the answer being “One bite at a time.” This brainteaser and its resolution informed the thinking behind the approach taken by A Perfect Circle on their upcoming new album, ‘Eat The Elephant.’ Forever a complex task, the making of their records, their elected process toward their fourth studio offering produced by Dave Sardy and engineered by Puscifer’s Mat Mitchell has evidently worked in their favour.
After a near fourteen-year hiatus, fans began to speculate as to whether or not A Perfect Circle genuinely did take the time out to focus on their other respective projects, or if perhaps there was something else entirely going on behind the scenes. It was almost impossible not to ponder the notion that there may have been some truth surrounding the rumors that guitarist Billy Howerdel (Ashes Divide) had in fact been cryogenically frozen as part of an experimental partnership between the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Dairy Queen.
While the truth may forever elude us, one thing is certain, April 20th marks the highly anticipated return of A Perfect Circle with ‘Eat The Elephant’, and what a return it promises to be.
Fans were teased, enticed and slowly beckoned with the release of three original offerings cherry picked straight from the album. “The Doomed” recalled what we already knew to be true, that Howerdel remains a talented writer and weaver of ambient, atmospheric and memorable songs, while “Talk, Talk”, with its graceful piano you cannot help but surrender to getting lost in, heavily cements just how astounding a poetic lyricist Maynard James Keenan (Tool, Puscifer) really is.
“Disillusioned”, inspired by the film ‘What Dreams May Come’ starring Robin Williams and loosely dedicated to the memory of the actor, came from a place of “Going through Hell and back for your love,” says Howerdel. Initially sounding like quite an aggressive approach to the song, it is actually tender in its execution as Howerdel favours his sombre piano playing both here and throughout the record as opposed to his heavier, at times even psychedelic guitar tones. Though, guitars also feature heavily on this record.
Comprised of songs ranging from the climactic, riff driven “By And Down The River” to the electronic, at times even industrial “Hourglass”, ‘Eat The Elephant’ pendulum swings between ethereal elegance and brute force, playfully emoting both passive and aggressive traits, though never fully committing to either. With the song writing partnership between Howerdel and Keenan being ignited once again, there was never going to be a straightforward record from the pair, and here we find no exception. Trying to easily navigate your way through any of the bands past or present works is about as likely as deciphering a map etched on a leaf with a stick by a blind man with no hands. Anyone who has tried already understands that exploring the labyrinth back roads alone in the dark always proves to be the more gratifying endeavour.
A surprising find is that ‘Eat The Elephant’ features what is arguably the most upbeat, even poppy song from A Perfect Circle to date. “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish”, with its catchy hook riff and heartbeat driven bass drum is a reflection on, and in many ways a tribute to, some of the influential personalities we have lost. With character cameos ranging from Willy Wonka, Major Tom and Princess Leia that reference the inimitable Gene Wilder, David Bowie and Carrie Fisher, “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish” feels optimistic despite its weighty subject matter.
Listening to A Perfect Circle can sometimes feel like listening to Jazz musicians playing progressive and alternative rock music narrated by poets who fall somewhere between singing and the spoken word, as the albums opening title track will attest to. It’s not for everyone, and at times can even be difficult to listen to, but those who enjoy it do so fiercely and are mere days away from delving in all over again.
As is the way with most records from A Perfect Circle, ‘Eat The Elephant’ is a slow burner that is only truly realized in time, getting better with age. It is a record you listen to through your headphones, absorbing all of its many textures in a head space all of your own. A dynamic yet delicate dance, ‘Eat The Elephant’ is an occult experience that will divide some, unite others, all the while fueling the next chapter for A Perfect Circle.