A Perfect Circle Thirteenth Step
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Track List:
1. The Package - 7:40
2. Weak and Powerless - 3:15
3. The Noose - 4:53
4. Blue - 4:13
5. Vanishing - 4:51
6. A Stranger - 3:12
7. The Outsider - 4:06
8. Crimes - 2:34
9. The Nurse Who Loved Me - 4:04
10. Pet - 4:34
11. Lullaby - 2:01
12. Gravity - 5:08

Overview: I'm sure that Michelangelo's works of art have faults, but I wouldn't presume to be the one to point them out. That's how I felt about reviewing the sophomore effort from A Perfect Circle. I was content to let some other sap take a shot at critiquing this latest work of art, but with nobody stepping up…well, I wasn't content to let it lie. This album deserves some press. I worship lead singer Maynard James Keenan with something approaching religious fervor, and I thought the debut album of A Perfect Circle was something everybody needed in their CD collection. Imagine my surprise and chagrin then when, upon first listen, I was disappointed by their new album. It's a very different album than either their first effort or anything any of the band members have previously been involved in (Tool, for example.) But once my expectations were shaken up and I sat down and really listened to the album, its inherent joys began sinking into my brain deeper and deeper.

First off, this isn't one of those CDs that you'll just pop in for a particular couple of songs. I mean, everyone will have their favorites, as in any album, but this is best enjoyed by listening to the whole thing in one sitting. It's not that there's an overall arc to it like with Pink Floyd's The Wall, or other concept albums, just that the longer you listen to it, the more the pervading mood sinks in and percolates. It's a quieter album overall than the first one, and in a sense, much more beautiful. Guitarist Billy Howerdel has crafted some haunting melodies, and the flow of the songs cascades in a scintillating display of musicianship. The album is understated, yet effective, leaning more toward the critical appreciation than the radio single. Overall, it's just one of those rare, wonderful pieces that get better with each listen. The only thing stopping me from giving it an A is my own particular criteria…I feel that to get an A, the media should be something that EVERYONE can pick up and enjoy. While this is a great album, it's a bit of a directed effort, and not something that I think would necessarily appeal to everyone. (Though APC's old guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen returns to contribute some of the heavier guitar work on a few select tracks.) Still, if you're a fan of any sort of rock music, you owe it to yourself to pick up the album.

Standout Tracks: First and foremost, The Package rules. It's the epic, slowly expanding rock song of the album, and probably the closest sounding to something that might come from Tool. It starts slow and gentle in music and voice, both building to an eardrum thumping, guitar crunching peak before walking it off and fading down to solitude again. Weak and Powerless in on the radio right now, and it's great. You've probably heard it so I won't say anything else about it other than it's the most radio-friendly sounding track of the bunch. The Noose is a haunting and beautiful melody, much like the album as a whole, full of wonderful phrases like "your halo's slipping down to choke you now…" The Stranger is another wonderful tune where Maynard employs a croon rather than a growl. This is accompanied by gentle harmonies and a slow string suite to make a beautiful song. The Outsider is the hardest rocking song and takes the prize for 'coulda been a Tool song' if The Package doesn't. It just flat out rocks. The Nurse Who Loved Me is a love-it-or-hate-it track. Resembling the music played in the main room in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest but with words, it describes the plight and privilege of the mentally insane. Most people will probably skip this track every time after they first hear it, but I find myself entranced by the sheer artistry behind it. I've never heard another track like it on a modern rock album.

- - Jeff Light

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