Album Review: A Perfect Circle — Eat the Elephant

Monday, April 30, 2018

It’s been fourteen years since American rockers A Perfect Circle released an album, and if that time span and its end result confirm anything, it’s that this is a group that feels no need to rush.

Their latest offering Eat the Elephant sees the band take on a more atmospheric sound and move away from the hard rock style of some of their previous records.

Instead of hard-hitting guitar riffs, the nearly hour-long album often grooves along at a mellow pace with Maynard James Keenan’s prolific vocals steering the ship hand-in-hand with a piano. While the end result may not be what A Perfect Circle fans were expecting, it’s an impressive, brilliant and original album that is still undoubtedly the work of Keenan and bandmate Billy Howerdel.

The first third of the album sets the scene for much of what's coming. The title-track and opener, ‘Eat the Elephant’, gives off a vibe not dissimilar to jazz, with a wide open drum sound and an echo-like lead piano line floating around Keenan’s vocals about suicide and death. Although the feel of the album is often much more relaxed than previous efforts, the questioning, sometimes pessimistic, and emotional lyrical content Keenan fans are familiar with from his work with APC and Tool still remain.

‘Disillusioned’ brings a fuller sound with a more potent guitar line at first, but shifts gears throughout to a stripped back approach where once again the piano and thoughtful vocals are at the forefront. ‘Disillusioned’ vocalises observations of a modern society that disregards meaningful and personal interaction.

The fourth song ‘The Doomed’ is the album's best. With hard-hitting drums and a sinister guitar sound, it switches back and forth from a scornful and aggressive hard rock style to the signature atmospheric vibe of the rest of the album. After surging along for much of its four-and-a-half minute run time, the song, which seems to critique of societies inequalities, climaxes with a vintage enraged Keenan vocal line which pronounces “fuck the doomed, you’re on your own”.

Another highlight is ‘TalkTalk’, a tune more reminiscent of the APC of years gone by, but fused with the band’s 2018 incarnation. Keenan shows off his vocal powers here, mixing a higher, floating sound in the verse with a powerful and more aggressive tone in the chorus. Seemingly another criticism of the self-righteous, the song creates an overall feeling that older fans of the band will find comfortably familiar.

Other tracks seem less familiar, and nobody can say the band are afraid to try new things. The synth-heavy ‘Hourglass’ feels menacing and electro. By contrast, the sarcastically sung ‘So Long and Thanks For All The Fish’ comes against a surprisingly upbeat musical composition which could be the brightest sounding in the group's catalogue.

When a band takes fourteen years between releases, it is unrealistic to expect a rehash of what came before. For a band like A Perfect Circle, who only make records when they want to, it’s especially ludicrous. While some fans might be taken aback, even disappointed, by the lack of hard rock tunes on the new album, this latest offering certainly doesn’t lack for memorable tracks and the group hasn’t forgotten where they came from.

An atmospheric and mature album, Eat the Elephant will come at APC fans from some different directions than they’re used to. However, the classic sound of the band is still there, and when this album mixes both the old elements with the new direction, that’s when it works best.

Written by David Convery

You can purchase Eat the Elephant here or stream it via Apple Music.

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