Band: A Perfect Circle
Album: Eat The Elephant
Release Date: 20th April, 2018
Review by John
It’s fair to say that Maynard James Keenan is a man to take his time over things. It’s been 12 years since the last Tool album (although the new one is expected any century now) and 14 years since ‘Emotive’, the last offering from his and Billy Howerdel’s “supergroup” A Perfect Circle.
Now, A Perfect Circle are back, but do they still have something to offer?
The answer to that is, frustratingly, not really.
‘Eat The Elephant’ isn’t a bad album by any stretch of the imagination but, on the whole, comes across as annoyingly nondescript. as it trudges out track after track of ambient, almost shoegazy rock, while largely failing to go anywhere.
A prime example of this comes in the form of opener (and title track) ‘Eat The Elephant’, which reminds me of some of the softer moments from Faith No More’s ‘Sol Invictus’, but with none of the passion or emotion. While Keenan’s vocals are undeniably beautifully haunting, the whole track just chugs along without engaging the listener.
And this sets the standard for much of the album. Very few tracks manage to live up to the scale of their ambitions. ‘The Doomed’ starts off well enough, before losing itself in the shadow of its own self importance, and you spend much of ‘The Contrarian‘ waiting for it to explode into life, which it sadly never does.
‘Disillusioned’ begins with a nicely ethereal feel before drifting into ambient indentikit sythpop, and the theme of over-reliance on technology and the impact of social media has been tackled so much better elsewhere, while ‘Hourglass’ is an electronically led abomination. But even this cannot prepare the listener for the abysmally experimental sound of closer ‘Get The Lead Out’, a track which left me wanting to gnaw off my own legs in frustration.
But, if you dig deep enough, there are some redeeming moments.
On the more progressive and challenging tracks, the band actually start to sound interesting. ‘Talk Talk’ and‘By And Down The River’ may fall into the “Tool-lite” category, but they are well worked and manage to hold the listeners attention, while ‘Delicious’ finally nails the emotion that is so sadly lacking elsewhere.
The albums crowning glory (and not just because it takes its title from the late great Douglas Adams) is ‘So Long and Thanks For All The Fish’. Touching on some of the celebrity deaths of 2016 (featuring the hauntingly moving lyric “Willy Wonka, Major Tom, Ali and Leia have moved on”) and foreshadowing a pending apocalypse with lyrics such as “all the dolphins have moved on, signalling the final curtain call in all its atomic pageantry” (the title, of course, refers to the last message left by the dolphins before they abandoned the Earth shortly before its destruction), . It has a more upbeat tone than you would expect given the gloomy subject matter, but it soars majestically above the rest of the album and is a song that you find yourself listening to over and over again. Genuinely moving, it exhilarates the senses and, for me, this should have been the final track on the album (especially given the damp squib that is ‘Get The Lead Out’).
It’s a real shame that the high points are so few and far between as, when it is good, ‘Eat The Elephant’ is very good indeed. But too much of it comes across as by the numbers filler and sounds like the sort of stuff that other bands do so much better.
The middle of the album hints at the real potential, with a run of four solid tracks, beginning with the aforementioned ‘Fish’, but it soon sinks back into borderline mediocrity.
Overall, A Perfect Circle have put together a brilliant EP. Unfortunately, by stretching it out to album length, much of the brilliance is lost in a sea of uninspiring blandness.
A missed opportunity.
01. Eat The Elephant
03. The Contrarian
04. The Doomed
05. So Long And Thanks For All The Fish
06. Talk Talk
07. By And Down The River
12. Get The Lead Out
Visit the band on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aperfectcircle
Get the album here: www.aperfectcircle.com