A Perfect Circle – ‘Eat The Elephant’ (Album Review)

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Over the past decade and a half, A Perfect Circle have remained as in-demand and enigmatic as ever – despite not having put out an album since 2004’s eMOTIVe. Core members Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel have kept busy with their own projects in that time, as well as making a good few live appearances as A Perfect Circle. Now comes Eat The Elephant at last, an album that looks likely to divide those long-running fans who still remember the first emergence of Mer de Noms back in 2000.

Eat The Elephant works best when taken as a collection of songs penned by one of alternative music’s most effective social critics”

Naturally, A Perfect Circle have evolved in that time – and Eat The Elephant is largely made up of comparatively minimalist arrangements. This time out, Howerdel and Maynard James Keenan have focused primarily on atmospheric compositions and lyrics that tend toward the political and socially conscious. This album’s title track relates to close friends’ suicides; So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish pays tribute to the fallen likes of Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, and Carrie Fisher; TalkTalk lambastes those who offer “thoughts and prayers” rather than taking meaningful real-world action; and The Doomed pointedly criticises social inequality and the political system that maintains it.

Eat The Elephant works best when taken as a collection of songs penned by one of alternative music’s most effective social critics. If you’re pissed off at the way the world currently is, Eat The Elephant will be easily relatable. Enter expecting a return to viscerally searing rock tracks like Judith, and you will leave disappointed.

Personally, Eat The Elephant is the kind of album I’d have to be in a certain mood to really enjoy. Musically, it’s mostly incredibly low-key, to the point of barely falling under the “rock” banner at all. Frequently driving drumbeats and occasional washes of tremolo-picked guitars do keep Eat The Elephant connected to A Perfect Circle’s roots, but this album is guaranteed to spark off some serious “is it rock or not?” debates as fans attempt to come to terms with it.

Aside from that, there’s not a lot to say – and that’s what really makes Eat The Elephant feel underwhelming. This is an effective album, but it probably won’t inspire effusive gushes of praise from many bar the most die-hard A Perfect Circle fans. Given weeks or months, it may prove to be a grower – but as the lyrics to Disillusioned point out, we live in a culture obsessed with the dopamine-spiking immediate.

Time will tell whether or not A Perfect Circle’s fans give Eat The Elephant the time and space it needs to grow on them. As the latest document from a group of alternative music’s leading lights, it deserves that extra effort. But ultimately, that discomforting first-listen hurdle will need to be overcome – and there’s no telling how many will fall and stay down.


Pre-order Eat The Elephant (out April 20) on iTunes.

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Posted on 17 April 2018

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