A Perfect Circle
Nothing stops groups in their tracks faster than flaming egos or legal snafus. To prove the point, Tool was temporarily sidelined in '97 when the lawyers stepped in to resolve contractual disputes. Tool lead singer Maynard James Keenan took the time off to recuperate but wound up adding lyrics to Billy Howerdel's music. Aside from working with Tool, Howerdel had also composed songs for Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails.
Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, bassist Paz Lenchantin and Freese completed the line-up. The group's maiden show at L.A.'s Viper Club in '99 was followed later in the year by the release their debut album "Mer De Noms." While the band found immediate chart success Keenan returned to Tool for that group's highly popular '01 release "Lateralus." That put A Perfect Circle on hold.
With the addition of former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha (replacing Van Leeuwen) and Jeordie White (taking over from Lenchantin) A Perfect Circle released "Thirteenth Step" in September of '03.
A Perfect Circle's third album, "eMOTIVe," was primarily a creation of Keenan and Howerdel. While the '04 set failed to dazzle critics, it did contain a less-than-hopeful cover of John Lennon's anti-war song "Imagine."
"aMOTION," a CD-DVD set that contained videos for six singles and previously unreleased videos came next. And for a while, that was it.
During an '06 interview, Keenan said, "I think [APC] is over. We pushed this project as far as it could go, and I see ourselves playing again together only in a few years." A 'few years' turned out to be four, when A Perfect Circle launched a lengthy tour. However, the group lost Josh Freese who left in '12 without any intentions of returning.
On the heels of the release of the band's greatest hits album, "Three Sixty," the group unfurled the box set "A Perfect Circle Live: Featuring Stone And Echo." The '13 compilation had four audio CDs and a DVD of Stone And Echo, a full-length concert film of the band's 08/02/11 performance at Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
2000 Mer de Noms
2003 Thirteenth Step
A Perfect Circle's fans are right when they say there is a world of difference between the group's debut "Mer De Noms" and sophomore effort "Thirteenth Step." "Mer De Noms" is a heavy, dark effort only lightened by the dreamy ballad "Orestes." "Thinking Of You" is a typical tightly wound Tool-type track. And that is how best to view this Nu-Metal Goth album; an extension of Tool.
On "Thirteenth Step" Art Rock concepts are employed within the Nu-Metal structure. Much, but not all of the Tool influence found on "Mers De Noms" is in remission. Though Keenan's trademark tortured vocals are intact he has more room for expression. "The Package," "Vanishing" and "The Nurse Who Loved Me," a ballad with cello, are slower, more textured efforts that take time to develop. Also, Howerdel and Iha's guitars effectively establish each song's mood. While some tracks have an immediate impact; "Pet" is a flat out Rocker and "Blue" returns to Tool's turf, the album's arrangements and overall structure encourages repeated plays to catch the subtle (and not so subtle) nuances.
"Passive," a song adapted from the defunct project, Tapeworm, with Keenan and Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, is easily the best track on "eMOTIVe." Smart to lay claim on that song.
"eMOTIVe" has several covers including John Lenoon's "Imagine." Lennon's hopefulness is replaced by a dark, heavy-handed despair. At least it bears some resemblance to the original. Elvis Costello ("Peace, Love and Understanding") and Marvin Gaye ("What's Going On") are barely recognizable. Give APC credit for trying something different but in the end though, it's easy to understand why Keenan thought they'd reached the end.