The year was 2000, and i was on my way to New Orleans to see Nine Inch Nails on their Fragility tour. This show was special for many reasons, but one key reason was the opening band. A Perfect Circle, a group everyone assumed would sound exactly like Tool, was set to open. It’s silly to me now, but people were very curious about what Maynard’s other band would have for us. Would they play Tool songs? I legitimately wondered that.
While they didn’t play those songs, the songs they performed in their 45 or so minutes were awesome. The album hadn’t even come out yet I don’t think, but once it did, I instantly purchased it, and it touched me in ways that Keenan’s other group hadn’t. Today’s Album of my Life, A Perfect Circle’s “Mer De Noms”
From the start of opening track, “The Hollow,” you can feel the intimacy and difference from much of the “modern rock” of the era. The sweeping of the drums, as well as the swelling of the guitars, courtesy of band founder Billy Howerdel add the subtle emotion to the track that really pushes it along. Also, for many, hearing this different side of MJK’s voice was a beautiful gift. It would be stupid of him to do the same thing he did with that other group, because it’s not the same group. I might be wrong, but it’s silly to join a new band when you want to continue doing the same thing. APC afforded the various members chances to do things outside of their “day Jobs.” Howerdel was a long time guitar tech(for Nin mostly), Troy Van Leeuwen was a member of Queens of the Stone Age(Still is), and the singer had that giant fucking band that I’m gonna try to stop mentioning.
Much of the album has this hazy, glazed approach to it. Many of the songs feel to me like they’re part of a doomed dream sequence, and the way the album is mixed only helps to elevate all the important pieces exactly when they need to be. Keenan’s voice on tracks like “Magdelena” and especially “Rose” blend simmering anger with quiet gentleness in a way that most other singers can’t. The guitar part at the bridge of “Rose” is exceptionally done and brings the qualities of MJK’s voice that you want in a good record.
Probably the best known songs on the album find us over the next few tracks. “Judith” erupts quickly with a slamming of the drums and it’s one of the angriest, most intense tracks the band ever produced. The song was clearly a reference to Keenan’s mother, but I also find it quite interesting. They were known to be close, but these lyrics aren’t sweet or positive in the way other tracks regarding her have been. I mean “Fuck Your God,” is a pretty direct statement, so I’m always unsure of his opinions towards the situation at this time, but if I had to guess it was frustration over her religious beliefs and how it may have played into her medical condition.
Track number six, or “3 Libras,” is a excellent song that is both lovely and purposeful. The guitars, keys and overall textures of the song showcase the more delicate arrangements the group are capable of, and Keenan’s voice has never been more honest and warm. The pictures painted with the lyrics can’t be touched by most artists, and it’s really hard not to fall in love with this new voice that people who loved Tool were hardly aware he even possessed. When he belts out “You don’t see me” you feel the pain of being ignored, and you’re right there with him.
The second half of the album continues to flow accordingly, although iit get’s a little tiny bit heavier. Not much at all, but it’s there. Mythological concepts continue to be explored, with the aptly titled “Sleeping Beauty” showcasing the darkness surrounding all fairy tales, if only we can find them.”Such a Fool to think I could wake you from your Slumber” remains one of my favorite lyrics from the band ever, and it’s delivery is full of doubt and hopelessness.
Briefly, I’d like to discuss the large amount of songs with people’s names as titles. Some of these I’m aware of the references, but many I’m not. “Renholder” is dedicated to former Nin bassist Danny Lohner, and “Judith” is a clear nudge towards Keenan’s mother. Quite simply, many of them ended up being in regards to people the band members knew, which I guess is a cool nod, but its rare when song titles alone stick out to you, but in the case of “Mer De Noms,” it happens.
After an awesome intro like “Renholder,” we’re treated to a kick ass song called “Thinking of You.” It’s a rocker of a song, and while it brings in some groovy keyboard effects, it also has a slight trip hop vibe to it. Now it doesn’t really sound like Massive Attack or Portishead, but there’s some underlying beats that are very in line with early PH or MA albums. Beyond that though, the guitars and drums are what makes this song what it is. It’s just a really good song, and the placement at the end of the album helps keep the momentum going. Lastly, the growl and repetition of “Thinking of You” at the end is both terrifying and deliberate in a menacing sort of way. I have always thought this song fit in nicely with Jack nicholson dragging the axe down the hallway in “The Shining” trying to find Wendy so he could eliminate she and Danny. Those visuals added to the overall texture and mood of the song paint a worrisome picture, but it works.
As the album nears it conclusion, “Brena” sweeps over us like a cloud of fog creeping across a lake in the early morning. Much of the album lends itself to perfect imagery like this, and it’s one of the things the band does best. The song is a mid tempo reminder of what we’ve been through, and it really brings everything together.
If the previous songs were heartfelt, than the last track “Over” is downright strange lyrically, Quickly though you see the quiet piano doing it’s trick in the simplest ways. There’s not much to the track, to be honest, but at the very last moment it builds, and you think it’s about to break open, but it doesn’t. It simply ends. Thanks for reading, see you Monday!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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