Review: A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant

“This is not going to go the way you think” a prominent quote from the most recent Star Wars movie The Last Jedi – and I expect the latest A Perfect Circle album will be greeted with similar levels of division within the fanbase.  Seemingly gone is the goth-tinged hard rock of the first two albums, Eat The Elephant greets us with a range of largely more mellow, yet more diverse sounds.

It starts off with the title track Eat The Elephant, with an abrupt piano jerking us into their world, with some jazz vibes and some very deep notes.  Maynard sings about the need to begin, the Elephant seemingly a metaphor for a large project.

The second track Disillusioned matches the bands stance on phones/photos at concerts, and encourages us to reconnect at a less digital level. Many are somewhat critical of this stance, however personally I both like the message (it’s not pressing for a full digital disconnect) and think the track is one of the best on this album.

The Contrarian is the first “new” track that jumped out to me as being great – Maynard’s vocals take on an eerie tone throughout, with a range of singing techniques and layered vocals telling the tale.  It then breaks out into what is one of the more traditional APC like moments as it finishes with bang.

The lead single for the album is The Doomed, and it’s one that after reading many Fourtheye comments a selection of you felt were some kind of “theme” for the album.  Many sick of politics had ruled the album (and track) a dud, merely because they didn’t want to hear Maynard singing about politics.  In the end those fans needn’t have worried, as the album didn’t end up the big political protest that some feared.  The Doomed is a solid track, and definitely one of my favorites from the album.  Not to mention probably the heaviest moment.

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish is quite the interesting track.  On the first couple of listens this upbeat and more poppy piece had me scratching my head and wondering what had happened to the band.  Even after a number of listens, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this song, but I admire that Billy & Maynard have tried a few different things on this album.  This album really doesn’t sound like any other APC record.

TalkTalk was the final single released during the album promotion phase, and is another high point of the album.  The message is a quite topical one, and the chorus pretty catchy.  It’s a pretty vanilla song, but works quite well.

By And Down The River is a rerecording of By And Down from their greatest hits album Three Sixty.  I didn’t think much of the track then, and this new version doesn’t really change my mind on it.  Apparently Billy thinks it’s one of their best songs though, so I guess I must be missing something!

Almost straying into rock ballad territory is the track Delicious, but with a ballsier chorus and an almost Smashing Pumpkins like solo at the end.

DLB is one of those moody instrumentals that people like.  It sounds cool and all, but I expect I’d skip over it on most listens.  Not sure what DLB stands for though!

During recent tours the band played the tracks Hourglass and Feathers.  Hourglass has a distinctive synth sound which really draws attention to it, with Maynard chanting along.  Hard to judge tracks based on sketchy Youtube videos, but it never really seemed to translate live for me. One the record though, you can feel the vibe of the track – Maynard experiments quite a bit vocally on this track, not all of it works though.  It’s certainly one of the more interesting parts of the album, but ultimately it falls a little flat for me.

Feathers was the other track previewed live.  It really doesn’t do a great deal for me.  It plods along at a pretty mellow place, and doesn’t really take me anywhere.

The album leaves with a final piece called Get The Lead Out.  Lyrically it seems to play off similar themes to the title track, and has an almost trip-hop vibe in parts.  It’s a cool way to end the album, and for me one of the more experimental moments that clicked for me.

So after a few listens, the album began to gel a little.  It’s a great sounding album – Billy Howerdel and Dave Sardy have done a great job capturing the music, and Maynard’s vocals are strong, though somewhat unorthodox in parts.  He uses many vocal effects and layering not seen outside of Puscifer, and it mostly works.

Some will go to great lengths to work out lyrical jabs at Tool and other things, but my advice is to largely go with the flow.  Don’t read too much into what Maynard writes – it’s just part of the meal that is the elephant.

I’m not going to give this album a score.  I think overall it is a few notches below Mer De Noms and Thirteenth Step, however I do prefer it to eMotive.  Sure, I would have liked a more “traditional” APC album, but I didn’t walk away disappointed after listening, though perhaps a little underwhelmed.  It’s an album that feels like Maynard and Billy are trying to reach beyond the expectations of what A Perfect Circle is all about, and it misses the mark as often as it hits.  I am very interested to see what the future of this band holds though.  Is this one last crack, or will they continue this project over the years to come.?

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nxrm
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nxrm

Thanks for sharing your thorough and thoughtful review.

The album is definitely a bit of a patchwork.

DRURY
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DRURY

That was a good review…very similar to what I’ve been thinking about it, although I hinge slightly more negative due to the less cohesive “band” vibe.

Maynerd
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Maynerd

Forgettable album.
Sounds like a bunch of very bad b-sides.

elusivEuphoria
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elusivEuphoria

I have a less favorable perspective of the album, however I think you hit the nail on the head at the end with, “It’s an album that feels like Maynard and Billy are trying to reach beyond the expectations of what A Perfect Circle is all about, and it misses the mark as often as it hits.” That’s what frustrates me most… the “misses”. I get taking some chances with song style, I do. And I am generally supportive of that. I would definitely like to see them putting out more music. I think I always will. But on this… Read more »

falseidol
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falseidol

I enjoy several tracks enough to play the album every other day now during a workout or some mindless task.

But did anyone here see the Jimmy Kimmel performances? They are up on YouTube at the moment. It put my stomach in knots and I broke out in sweats with how god awful it was. I just feel bad and yes I feel bad saying this here.

Yes I know Maynard most likely is tired and run down… but bad timing for a television performance (an out of tune snoozefest). Makes me wanna skip any concert that rolls into town.

biff22
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biff22

Those performances are pretty banged up. Their tones are better live for sure than on the album (the album is terribly compressed – maybe the vinyl is better), but yea… yikes. Live they’re a little more bare bones and it’s kinda revealing the song structure to be really boring. It’s a shame, they had so many great moments. Don’t get me wrong I would love a pop sounding major key record from these guys… I just think they missed their mark in a big way and ended up the varsity version of Imaginary Dragons.

UndKeineEier
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Woah, spoilers! Some of us haven’t seen the movie yet and are in no hurry to do so.

atoposchaos
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atoposchaos

Aside from DLB, Hourglass, and Get The Lead Out – all of which i would rank as this band’s absolute nadir in terms of original music – this has been a solid release. i can nitpick about individual things – Trans Siberian Orchestra anyone with The Doomed? Our Lady Peace with SLATFATF, uhh expand on The Contrarian and Delicious? – but what the fuck were you expecting? More chugga rock anthems? There’re plenty of garbage bands for you to bang your head to. This IS a POP band exploring more ambient approaches on this release, get over it…if you’re looking… Read more »

Undertowjones
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Undertowjones

Very good review bellboy lol honestly though I think your thoughts on it were very well written though I’d have to disagree with you on hourglass man something about that song I’ve had it on repeat for 3 days I dig it big time