Long-awaited since eMOTIVe’s release in 2004, A Perfect Circle have finally released their fourth album, Eat the Elephant. This seemingly subtle record invites us to embark in one of 2018’s most pleasantly unexpected trips in what is a minimalist piece with a million nuances, as we’re taken through a 57-minute journey which has been carefully designed to the highest atmospheric rock specifications, especially aiming at those looking for something else when sound alone isn’t enough.
With fascinating lyrics, Eat the Elephant gained shape through crafty studio work, with a tenacious Dave Sardy in control so that this time Billy Howerdel could use his full portfolio as a multi-instrumentalist, and with a plethoric Maynard James Keenan in what is his most inspired and melancholic vocal work so far in his career; a combination constructing a weightless sound fabric that gets wrapped around your very being (and tear ducts), through 12 passionate yet patiently contemplative pieces.
It’s easy to lower your guard and get carried away by Howerdel, Keenan and Sardy while listening to this album – and you’ll be glad you did, because the end result couldn’t be more comforting. Keenan’s incommensurable and ever-changing vocal technique is admirable, with notes reminiscent of Peter Gabriel and Gary Numan; the latter also inspiring the album’s multiple pure techno analogue arrangements, such as in ‘So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish’, an unexpectedly bright tribute to departed stars. ‘Hourglass’ is also an electronic experiment of vocoder mastery, again evocative of Numan as well as Trent Reznor. There’s also a number of classics more familiar to the APC universe (with an undeniable 90’s Failure taste), such as the emotional ‘By And Down The River’, ‘TalkTalk’ and ‘Feathers’. ‘Delicious’ is sweet and romantic in APC’s “dry humour” way. Add to that the new dimensions brought by ‘Disillusioned’ or ‘The Contrarian’, intense but delicate, and ‘The Doomed’’s concealed deadliness and thinly veiled anger, and you’ve got an album of seemingly unattainable quality.
Eat the Elephant is a true hidden treasure for those who know how to dig; highly addictive, its apparent paleness builds up to a rich, dark red. APC wanted to impress without making noise, and they succeeded. Thirteenth Step’s space rock atmosphere is still present, and Eat the Elephant still feels like APC, but proves to be a successful progression. Each track flows perfectly into the next, giving it a concept album feeling which gets better at every listen. While it’s not a completely political record, it touches on relevant current themes such as power and corruption, inequality, isolation, and the death of the rich and famous. It is, perhaps, the protest album that eMOTIVe should’ve been, tied in with the 2004 US Presidential Elections. APC have managed to strike that perfect balance of being similar enough to previous releases (well, Mer de Noms and Thirteenth Step), while also entering new, uncharted territory.
A new beginning, or a bittersweet farewell? I guess we’ll wait and see.
Eat the Elephant is out now via BMG.