It is said that the wait builds up the atmosphere and increases the intensity of an experience. Well… it seems that A Perfect Circle know a lot about this and are willing to take the concept to a whole new level. “Eat the Elephant” has been fermenting for a while and is the brilliant and long awaited return of the experimental rock supergroup A Perfect Circle, after a 14 years hiatus.
It’s impossible to start without addressing the provocative title of the album. APC always approached themes like war, politics, religion, among others; and “Eat the Elephant”, an expression that points out something that is now impossible to ignore, is no exception: precisely the opposite. Written by Maynard, the lyrics of each track along with the album title, speak for themselves. The Elephant has been acknowledged, and now… it’s time to eat it, bite by bite.
The jazzy groove of the title-track conveys that this will musically be a smoother album, comparing to previous releases. Also, it announces an opus that will intensely explore the piano, which was entirely the responsibility of Howerdel (as almost all of the other instruments).
We insist in pointing our fingers to corrupt politicians, to the system and even to the society, forgetting that we are a part of it. Instead of being the “change that we want to see in the world”, we simply keep spitting out our opinions. Politicians are simply headliners and we are oblivious to our own impact and responsibility; And if we do recognize that, we immediately get distracted with celebrities, entertainment, consumerism and kick that though to our subconscious mind. Social exclusion, wealth inequality, addiction to technology, hypocrisy, lack of accountability, the conditioning of immediate satisfaction… We’re all a part of that, just like “Disillusioned” and “The Doomed” tell. This record is about “reconnecting and taking responsibility for yourself”, about “figuring out what part of the problem you are” (“TalkTalk”).
The maturation of the band’s sonority and respective production is undeniable. Although some heavier elements were dropped along the way, we unquestionably find A Perfect Circle in every corner and it almost feels as if only 2 or 3 years have passed. The prominent continuous guitar riffs and sound effects in “Disillusioned” and “The Contrarian” (a chilling track with a haunting bass arrangement and eerie sound effects) take us back to the good old APC; and in turn, “The Doomed” drum intro feels like an extension of “Crimes”. Also, Maynard’s vocal performance seems to be timeless and better than ever, being “By and down the river” and “Delicious” (a track where the vocals are notably followed by the guitar riffs) great examples of that.
Nonetheless, there are many new elements and a lot of experimentation going on. I mostly felt that itch of novelty with “So long and thanks for all the fish”, a track that stands out because of its major key resonance and upbeat tempo, which make it sound really happy. Its entire nature mirrors the absurdity of contemporary existence and is a jocose and sarcastic statement of the fact that even though we’re on the verge of apocalypse, as long as we’re entertained, we’re okay with that (like REM’s “It’s the end of the world as we know it – and I feel fine”). On the bright side, it also pays homage to dead celebrities like David Bowie, Prince and Gene Wilder.
The same touch of innovation can be found in “Hourglass”, which superbly brings complex electronic elements to APC’s soundscape. The twittery drum rhythm, the mechanical sound effects and robotic backing voice make this track sound urgent and almost claustrophobic. Also, an industrial vibe and Depeche Mode influences are noticeable here (the same goes to “The Contrarian”).
This dissertation closes with pizzicato notes and a smooth atmosphere (“Get the lead out”). After this tsunami of issues, it’s time to “suck it up, buttercup” and take action.
Although Maynard stated that he writes “looking forward, not backwards” and manifested the intention of dragging things ahead, the old-school influences present here are undeniable. Intertwined with all the musical innovations there are many elements that were clearly brought from the late 90’s and early 2000’s soundscape. This awesome comeback is clearly the culmination of years of livingness and maturation of the distinct APC’s sonority. This catchy sequence flies and easily engages its listener, I barely noticed that I was at the last track already.
About A Perfect Circle: