A Perfect Circle: Introduction, Mer De Noms, and Deep Cuts
A Perfect Circle are best known for being Maynard James Keenan from Tool
and a bunch of other people, but in fact this couldn't be further from the truth: A Perfect Circle are actually Maynard James Keenan from Tool
, Josh Freese from Every Band In Existence Except For The Ones Dave Grohl Is Drumming For Instead, Billy Howerdel, and a bunch of other people. That sort of underestimates Howerdel's importance to the group though - He was the one who started the band, and has co-written almost all of their songs with Keenan. There have been a fair amount of lineup changes for a band that only have three albums, but the current lineup also features James Iha from Smashing Pumpkins
and Matt McJunkins from Palm Springs, California.
Mer De Noms (2000)
This is the only A Perfect Circle album I've already heard: When "Judith" started getting airplay I initially thought it was in fact a new Tool song - the first few tracks, including that song, have a similar degree of heaviness, and Keenan's voice is distinctive enough to really make anything he's involved with sound a little like Tool (with the exception of Green Jell˙
of course). Even these songs are more straightforward than Tool's usual material, but to me where the difference really kicks in is the fifth track, "Orestes", with it's slower tempo, clean guitar melodies that owe a little bit to The Cure
, and touches of keyboard and strings.
The thing I appreciate is that while they can
approach the intensity of Tool (the bridge of "Thinking Of You" being a good example), it's balanced by an approach that puts more emphasis on melody and atmosphere. Billy Howerdel's guitar playing and Keenan's singing are the main things that stand out on the album - Howerdel does his share of more aggressive playing, but is equally likely to go with something somber and goth-influenced, and Keenan generally tones things down from his work with Tool without seeming like he's just holding something back. I don't remember really loving this album at the time, but now I'm much more intrigued by the band's style, and am pretty interested to hear where they go from here.
The Hollow, Orestes, Thinking Of You
Deep Cuts (2009)
Even though it came out 9 years later, I'm still considering this EP a "companion piece" to Mer De Noms
, because it consists of versions of songs from that album (three live tracks and one demo), all of which were originally released as B-sides. The band were on hiatus and their last release was in 2004, so I guess their label felt the need to put something
out. Despite sort of being a cash-in though, this seems like a fairly useful release for hardcore fans: If you've got this and the CD portion of aMOTION
, you have all the Mer De Noms
b-sides without having to hunt down the singles for "Judith", "3 Libras" and "The Hollow".
The EP starts out strong with a lovely live acoustic take on "Sleeping Beauty": The original version sort of dragged on Mer De Noms
, but I find it just works a lot better in this setting: without the low-end-heavy dirge arrangement of the album version, the haunting melody stands out a lot more. I also particularly like the guitar work and bongos here. The other two live tracks ("Magdelena" and "Breņa") are electric, and much more similar to their album counterparts. Still, both are very well-recorded and demonstrate that APC are very good live.
Other than "Sleeping Beauty", though, the other track that's interesting to me is the demo version of "Orestes", which has Billy Howerdel singing and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar - the band originally got started when Maynard James Keenan heard Howerdel's demos and wanted to sing them, and this is presumably one of said demos. The melody and lyrics are fully intact, but otherwise the arrangement is pretty different from Mer De Noms
, and it's also different to hear him sing lead here, because he's singing in a much lower voice than Keenan's - actually he sounds a little bit like Aaron Lewis of Staind here, if you can construe that n a way that it doesn't sound like an insult.
Sleeping Beauty, Orestes