ALBUM REVIEW: A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant

Release Date: April 20th 2018
Label: BMG


Maynard James Keenan continues to defy the human populace with his esoteric musings and cryptic social media postings, but despite still no sign of the new Tool record which has alluded fans for the last twelve years, his creative juices have surfaced to produce the first (and fourth proper) A Perfect Circle record in some 14 years, ‘Eat The Elephant’.

From the very outset, this appears to be somewhat of a meditative expedition for Keenan et al, with the titular opening track delivering a gentle jazz-infused melody followed by a floaty Moby-esque vocal composition. After all this time waiting for new material, you’d expect a punchier start to the album, but while this is no ‘Judith’ or ‘Weak And Powerless’, it leads us into the record with a majestic smoothness.

‘The Contrarian’ contains monotone vocals which, when displayed against its melodic nature, gives a very gothic overtone to the song. With a delicate piano playing in the background and a haunting conclusion, the song ramps up the emotive seductiveness considerably – although soon after, ‘The Doomed’ amps up the pace, and Keenan‘s voice becomes markedly more fierce.

One of the highlights, ‘So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish’, demonstrates a real upbeat vibe and catchiness that lasts for the duration of the track. Despite the odd-sounding name and the tendency to be a bit Pet Shop Boys in the vocal delivery, its anthemic guitar riffs and driving rhythm section steers everything in a coherent manner, and, when the stings enter the fray, the quality soars to an extremely high level.

Whilst guitarists James Iha and Billy Howerdel showcase their excellent instrumentation skills in ‘By And Down The River’, this track is all about Keenan‘s incredible voice. Harking back to the band’s formative years (and being heavily aligned to Tool), its gentle and emotive atmosphere creates a wonderful tapestry of delight cut through by that effectively progressive guitar work.

Despite the considerable time since the last A Perfect Circle record, the individual band members have still been active in other projects (Tool, The Smashing Pumpkins, Ashes Divide), and this has helped to maintain the creative edge that they were renown for in the early noughties.

‘Hourglass’ firms that theory up, as the band include an industrial metal vibe that sounds somewhere between Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, with hooky staccato vocal lines, vocoder effects, and a backdrop of pleasant electronica, while ‘Feathers’ highlights Howerdel‘s guitar virtuoso with an emotive solo that elevates the track above its simple rhythmic structure before then bringing in Maynard back into the mix for a seamless finale.

‘Eat the Elephant’ is a fascinating piece of work, but it’s certainly more of a grower than an instantaneous fix. The low energy throughout the record, alongside the movement from a more guitar-driven sound in favour of a distinct piano and electronic undertone, may put off some fans who were around at the beginning of the band’s career. However, there’s enough variety and standout moments to give the clear majority of listeners something to cling positively onto and to also distract from that odd album artwork.