Despite A Perfect Circle teasing new music as far back as 2008, only one new track, By And Down, has surfaced between now and then. The last album was 16 years ago, and, given how long frontman Maynard Keenan’s main band Tool are taking to conjure up anything new it’s not surprising that A Perfect Circle fans had all but given up on the supergroup ever gracing us with fresh material.
But finally, there’s hope – guitarist Billy Howerdel recently announced that A Perfect Circle will play live again next year, and that new music is on the way. Maynard elaborated that they’ll play the Hollywood Bowl on May 7, 2017, and, according to reports, didn’t seem to dispute that new music is on the way, which is an improvement on his 2010 comments that he “[isn’t] really into albums any more”.
To mark their return, we combed through their back catalogue to pick their 10 best tracks.
It takes a while to get going, but the hypnotic drone of Maynard’s voice over the sparse opening section means you’re lulled into Magdalena’s eerie wail quickly. While it may not have as much of a hook as some of its album-mates on Mer De Noms, it’s a worthy inclusion on this list for how seamlessly it blends distinct sections and doesn’t rely on the standard verse-chorus structure.
Is this a reassuring serenade, or a captor whispering threats disguised as soothing phrases to try and lull their prey into some kind of Stockholm Syndrome? Knowing Maynard’s tendency to gravitate to the dark side of life, it’s probably the latter. “I must isolate you” kind of gives it away, really. It’s Billy Howerdel’s guitar lines, that slither through the song like a snake, that really give this one an edge, though.
8. 3 Libras
The delicate strings and flute embellishments on the verses could almost take 3 Libras into prog territory, if it weren’t for the brooding bassline and acoustic strums kicking in on the chorus. The contrast between the gentle wistfulness of the verses and the impassioned wail of “You don’t see me” captures the turbulence of human emotion; if sadness giving way to frustration made a noise, it might sound a bit like 3 Libras.
7. Weak and Powerless
It might sound bleak, but it’s not as uncomfortably personal as some of the material on Mer De Noms. Instead, it’s an ode to the monotony of being trapped in a miserable state, but the chugging, driving rhythm make listening to it infinitely preferable to being caught in the mindset it rails against.
It’s a slow burner, building in ambience and texture as it progresses. The breathy a cappella vocals at the start, and the whispers over the bassline – which, unusually, is the central focus of the song – are enough to raise hairs on the back of your neck or lull you to sleep, depending on what mood you’re in. Conjuring so many moods with minimal instrumentation is an impressive feat.
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5. The Outsider
A pinch of Mer De Noms makes its way in here. While The Outsider couldn’t be called heavy by any stretch, Maynard snarls instead of drawls here, and some of the visceral anger he unleashed on the first record returns, a beacon of rage among Thirteenth’s Step’s comparative calm.
The ominous opening jangle, like a spectre running its fingers over hanging crockery in a horror film kitchen, gives way to a singalong chorus about wilful ignorance, the dark and relentless beat beneath hinting at the tragedy that the song’s protagonist refuses to acknowledge. Listen while half-distracted and you’ve got a pleasant melody that embeds itself in your brain; pay full attention, and it’s full of APC’s trademark creepiness.
One of just two originals on 2004’s eMOTIVE, Passive’s call-and-response structure gives it an almost pop feel, and the lyrics get straight to the point without any embellishment or metaphors. It’s angry and relatable, and, well, just a really good song.
2. The Hollow
Dark lyrics about filling an emotional “hollow” with empty sex are made poetic and almost beautiful when set over a complex 6⁄8 rhythm played with such skill that it may as well be 4⁄4. That’s Primus’s Tim Alexander on the sticks, underpinning the fluidity that makes this abrasive rock song sound fluid. As an album opener, it’s definitely one that’ll make you want to keep listening.
Musically, Judith follows in the same vein as The Hollow, with riffs sliding effortlessly over complex rhythms and breakdowns. But it’s the deeply personal lyrics and the palpable anger that emanates from them that makes Judith a masterpiece. Written after his mother became wheelchair-bound after a stroke, Maynard’s despairing incredulity that she could still keep her belief in God despite her suffering is painfully, tear-inducingly, present.