Written by: Jarrett Crepeau
BMG Rights Management
A Perfect Circle released their fourth studio album, Eat the Elephant, on April 20, 2018 after a 14-year gap following the 2004 release of eMOTIVe. The album started to be conceptualized as early as 2008, and we saw the first single in October 2017 titled “The Doomed”, followed by “Disillusioned”, “TalkTalk”, and “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”. Fans have eagerly waited to see Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel return to this project, and they have not been disappointed. To help with records-producing, the band brought in Dave Sardy, noted for his work with many rock artists throughout the past two decades. The band has always been a rotating door of members, but this time around we are joined by Maynard on vocals, Howerdel with lead guitar and backing vocals, Matt McJunkins (known from Eagles of Death Metal, Ashes Divide) on bass and backing vocals, James Iha (one of the founding members of The Smashing Pumpkins) on keyboards and rhythm guitar, and Jeff Friedl on drums. Together the band has created an album that is topical and thought-provoking while still keeping the band’s core themes and sound 14 years later.
(From Right to Left) Maynard James Keenan, Matt McJunkins, Billy Howerdel, James Iha, Jeff Friedl
Eat the Elephant, from what I’ve surmised from interviews and many listens to the album itself, is about accountability. It’s not political in a way where it tells you how or what to think, but rather looking inward, identifying problems with yourself and with the world around you and asking yourself what you can do to help with them, and then actually going and doing it. Maynard hits on this last point in the song “TalkTalk” which on the surface is jab at the Christian right’s position on guns and the “thoughts and prayers” mentality, and ironically released just a few days before the Parkland Shooting in Florida. But looking in between the lines, you can see how Maynard is really criticizing holier-than-thou types that criticize the problems in the world without actually taking action to make things better.
“Sit and talk like Jesus
Try walkin’ like Jesus
Sit and talk like Jesus
Talk like Jesus
Talk talk talk talk
Get the fuck out of my way”
-”TalkTalk” A Perfect Circle
This theme of accountability translates into the record’s title, Eat the Elephant, which is a play on the saying “Well how would you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It would be a grueling task, but by going on the messages of the music it’s as if the “elephant” is our repressed faults, insecurities, things we are hung up on, and the act of “eating the elephant” is coming to grips with those faults and making attempts at bettering ourselves so we can help those around us. The song “Disillusioned” shares this theme through its scathing commentary on how glued to our phones we are. The first big chunk of this elephant we’re supposed to be eating is disconnecting from the technology we’ve been attached to. Seeing as Maynard is a bit of a recluse, I can understand why he feels the way he does. The song comments not only on the harmful aspects social media has on us mentally and emotionally, but also spiritually, in the song Maynard sings,
“Time to put the silicon obsession down
Take a look around, find a way in the silence
Lie supine away with your back to the ground
Dis- and re-connect to the resonance now
You were never an island
Unique voice among the many in this choir
Tuning into each other, lift all higher”
-Disillusioned, A Perfect Circle
The last three lines really hit home on how tech has affected us spiritually, “you were never an island” refers to how we have put ourselves in our own boxes online, following and blocking whoever we want, creating our own digital utopia, but we aren’t like that in the real world. Individually, we are all part of the “choir” of civilization and society. If we want to attempt to fix what we complain about online, we need to return to the choir, and tune into each other, work together, and do something.
Ultimately, this record is very different than the first three which are much heavier and sound like what most fans love the band for. Many took some adjustment to actually fall in love with the album like I did, its softer tones and focus on piano rather than large crescendos of guitar are something we were not entirely used to as fans of Maynard. However, it’s still thematically and lyrically an A Perfect Circle album. The band’s voice is consistent throughout the album and certainly hasn’t lost anything over the 14 year long hiatus. Billy and Maynard have said they would love to continue work with band and make more music, but Maynard being attached to Tool and Puscifer, the first of which is expecting to put out an album next year, makes it difficult to consistently work on music. The band is continuing their tour throughout the US. You may have even seen or heard their performance at Coachella this year, which is where the performed their debut album for the first time back in 2000. They will be in the DFW area May 26 to play a festival at Starplex Pavilion, so get tickets here if you’re interested. However, you won’t be seeing the entire band, as James Iha has temporarily left his post to perform with The Smashing Pumpkins who announced their 20-year reunion tour earlier this year. Below, I linked some of the record’s songs which were performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! That you can check out.