29 May 2018

A Perfect Circle - Eat the Elephant

Whenever I talk to people about A Perfect Circle, I’m virtually guaranteed to get one of two reactions.  It’s either “You mean Tool-lite” or “Why has Maynard/Tool not released a new album”.  Both tend to come with a dozen swear words, but both responses do A Perfect Circle a disservice.  Just because they share a vocalist, doesn't mean they're the same band.  I've always found them to be a perfectly fine entity in their own right.  So, fuck people with those responses. However, recently there has been a new response added to the list….and this one is not a kind response.  Because the fans seem to be a little pissed that they have released an album at all. They were expecting the same old material from years ago, which is a ludicrous response to be honest.  The main issue seems to be regarding the use of synths and lack of biting guitar work on their latest album, Eat the Elephant.  Before it was released, each of the four singles was received with wails of anger.  From someone sitting on the sidelines, it’s been a bemusing spectacle and sort of disrespectful.

As Eat the Elephant is the first APC album since 2004’s war protest covers record, Emotive.  To be honest, 14 years between albums is a hell of a long time, but this is a side project!  It’s not as if it’s the main project of the band members has been busy, but let’s not dwell on that either.  The stories about prolonged recording sessions, songs being mixed in isolation and their hiatus all contributed to the long wait.  So, with all that time passing, you can expect a change in tone.  Also, this is not the same group who recorded Emotive, only Messrs Kennan and Howell remain in the studio.  Everyone else has been replaced over the years. So, technically it’s not even the same act.  But here is the big question, is the complaining warranted?

Well, yes and no.  If you’re one of those people who are unable to accept a band must change to survive, you’re going to hate this.  If you’re not a fan of anything that Mr Kennan has released, you’ll be better off looking elsewhere.  If you’re not a fan of synths in rock music, I hear that Avenge Sevenfold are there for your needs (other, more talented bands are available).  Also, the guitars are still there, you just need to listen out for them.  If you’re unable to evolve with a band, then move on – no point crying that they have released something that suits them.  Because this is a changed act, this is a band who know their destiny is not in the past.

The themes of this album are overtly political as well, so that might be a subject that some listeners cannot cope with.  However, this has always been the case with APC, especially with Emotive, so that is not an excuse for disliking this album.  It also targets religion, humanity and the way we’re fucking up the planet as subject matters as well.  There is nothing comfortable about this album, it’s hard biting, full of rage and spectacularly aggressive from the outset.  Basically, everything that you would want from APC.

There are some brilliant moments, the OTT “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish” is one of my favourite numbers that APC have ever released!  I can imagine it with an America flavoured, OTT video that would be twisted and warped.  The subject matter of humanities nuclear demise, which is bound to happen according to APC.  The talk of saviours and heroes, misplaced faith and humanities slow sleepwalk to destruction is a hot topic, and APC nail it perfectly.   "The Doomed" is another song which I could lose myself in, a dark melodic pool of evil and dark thoughts.  “TalkTalk” is another song which I’ve grown to admire, as it looks at the social media culture of thoughts and prayers, the way they have no meaning and yet it’s a social norm to do now at each disaster, instead of meaningful actions.

The lasting impression I have once the album finishes is the volatility of the world and humanity.  We seem determined to fuck things up for ourselves, to press the reset button.  The warning signs are there for everyone to see, but will people want to go anything about it?  Well, that is not for APC to ponder, they can just point us in that direction and we’re left to arrive at our own conclusions.  But what is the final verdict on Eat the Elephant?  Well, I love it and I have issues with it as well.  Firstly, I think they’ve created a new genre in Alternative AOR music, but that’s just my way of pigeon-holing this uniquely strange record.  All the things I tend to dislike about APC are still here, they seem to stray into self-indulgence too often for my tastes.  This has been something that I’ve felt since their first record, so it’s not a new thing for me.  However, when they hit the sweet spot, they're fantastic.   When all those strange elements come together, then they’re world beater.  But you cannot have one without the other, which is their joy and their curse.  Eat the Elephant is an album that is almost a world beater, but it’s not quite there.  An eight out of ten might seem a strange mark for an album I have issues with, but it's a fair mark. 
However, the fact that this will be one of the most talked about albums of 2018 will tell you all you need to know.

8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, my money and my heart.

Top track – So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

You can purchase Eat the Elephant on Amazon here.

You can visit the website of A Perfect Circle here.

You can follow the activities of A Perfect Circle on Facebook here.

You can stream Eat the Elephant on Spotify here.

You can stream Eat the Elephant on Deezer here.

You can stream Eat the Elephant on Tidal here.

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