A Perfect Circle’s ‘Eat the Elephant’ Isn’t the Record You Expected – Album Review
14 years after A Perfect Circle assembled an album filled with anti-war cover songs, the band’s newest album, Eat the Elephant, has arrived in an arguably more divisive era. During this age of technology addiction, fake news, self-obsession and disconnection from community, Maynard James Keenan has attached his philosophy to 12 new songs that stray far from the days of Mer de Noms and Thirteenth Step.
From the introductory title track, listeners will find a stripped down A Perfect Circle, thanks to Keenan and his deconstruction of guitarist Billy Howerdel’s compositions. The result is achingly beautiful, as “Eat the Elephant” emerges as a clear high point of the record. Maynard sings about the fear of embarking on a new path, frozen by the grandiosity of his own goals — a humbling admission from a man who has accomplished so much.
“Eat the Elephant” weaves perfectly into “Disillusioned,” which encourages listeners to “put the silicon obsession down” and reconnect with their fellow humans. “Disillusioned” is where fans really begin to taste the wealth of dynamics placed throughout Eat the Elephant, along with its many ebbs and swells of heavy elements.
“The Doomed” is easily the heaviest cut from Eat the Elephant, offering a strange mix of electronica and war metal driven by APC’s rhythm section. There’s plenty of room for confusion throughout Eat the Elephant, as “The Doomed” is followed up by the almost adult contemporary “So Long, And Thanks for All the Fish” and the art rock “TalkTalk.” Though Keenan’s commentary on modern life remains fluid, that’s about the only reliable aspect of APC’s fourth album, as no two songs come close to resembling each other instrumentally.
The album’s seventh track, “By and Down the River,” is actually the first that’s driven by a guitar riff. Though it’s certainly not an outright negative, fans of Mer de Noms especially may be taken aback by a lack of dense and foreboding Howerdel leads. Instead, A Perfect Circle work to create lush soundscapes for Keenan’s lyrics, even if it means Howerdel remains in the back seat.
The remainder of Eat the Elephant is either forgettable or ridiculously electronic, except for the stunning “Feathers.” The most gorgeous track on the record, “Feathers” captures more of the feeling introduced by “Eat the Elephant,” but with more gripping visual representation. “Feathers” speaks of how we wear our negative experiences and showcase them in many colors. You may even find some common themes from “The Grudge” (shhh… not supposed to talk about that “other” band) about the beauty of letting go.
Eat the Elephant is, most likely, not the album you were hoping for these last 14 years. Frankly, it sounds more like Puscifer than A Perfect Circle. However, the latest Keenan/Howerdel offering has got plenty of depth to unpack through dozens of listens — something that 2010s rock desperately lacks.
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