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The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

This review was first published on CLUAS in 2005
Other albums reviewed in 2005

A Perfect Circle

A review of their album 'Emotive'

A Perfect Circle 'Emotive'Review Snapshot: A powerful album, both musically and emotional. Honest and influential, this album should open the doors for many more similar records that echo the instability of our world today. But don't take my word for it: listen and be moved.

The CLUAS Verdict? 8 out of 10.

Full review:
Begun as a side project of Tool's frontman and their chief soundman, A Perfect Circle have garnered a cult following and status well justified by their previous two albums, 'Mer de Noms' and 'The Thirteenth Step'. Their sound matches their image, and is just as you would expect a side project to sound. However, A Perfect Circle have proved they have something more to offer than Tool. Both 'Mer de Noms' and 'The Thirteenth Step' are more dark and beautiful than albums like 'Lateralus' or 'Aenima' ever were. A Perfect Circle has given Maynard Keenan scope to do what he could never achieve with Tool.

But an album of covers? Despite groans to the contrary, it actually does work. And works very well, in fact. Emotive is a deeply political but also personal album, perfectly depicting the American mood in this time of uncertainty and anger. Aside from two written by the band, A Perfect Circle use some of the most popular protest songs to communicate what they feel, receiving the same APC treatment. Emotionally it is raw and powerful, whispering hurt and anger, and is even touched with fear of the future.

A concept album such as this one can often provide a fertile breeding ground for pretentiousness, but this one is less about image, but using their status and image to convey attitudes and influence their listeners. It represents an idealism long since absent in our music. Combining heavy and light, low and high, quiet and loud, Emotive is the manifestation of the conflicting feelings felt by Americans today.

Musically, it is close to excellence. The dream-like opening track Annihilation marks out in no uncertain terms the idea behind the album, whispering proclamations about the fate of those who "live by death". The guitar and bass join the eerie bells of prophesy, and there is a gradual build of tension with the whispered vocals continuing like a heartbeat. However this build leads to nothing but the determined piano chords of Imagine, but Imagine as you've never heard it before.

Yes, I hear you all groan in despair. There has never been a successful cover of a John Lennon or for that matter any Beatles song. Until now, that is. Warped and darkened as to be almost unrecognisable, this version is just as if not more beautiful and powerful than the original, sung by Maynard with such passion he actually makes it hard to believe that it was not his song in the first place.

Marvin Gaye is the next lucky one to receive the star treatment. The classic 'What's Goin On?' is only recognisable through lyrics, as that is the only thing retained after A Perfect Circle's makeover. Bluesy and soulful backing has been displaced by airy guitar sounds, muffled drumming and yet again the dreamy feel that almost characterises the album.

There are only two originals on the whole album, the first being Passive. Although a typical APC track in sound and lyrical style, conforming more so than the others to the structure of rock songs, there is nothing typical in its subject. It is the first track of the album to feature the full sounds of all the bands many members, like the later cover of Devo's 'Freedom of Choice'. The second original, Counting Bodies Like Sheep, reverts to the dreamlike feeling again. Using some strange and often NiN-esque sounds, A Perfect Circle create an image of uncertainty, pain and fear, but the  track is also one of the weakest in the album, at some listens just coming across as insincere and strained. However the real low point of the album is the unfortunate inclusion of Greg Ginn's 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme'. The subject is sound and relevant, but the actual song scrapes and jars against the ear, unbefitting of a sweeping and often graceful album.

A Perfect Circle are a band betrayed and burned, and this album burns with passion. It's not perfect, and it's far from light and easy-listening, but it is worth every minute of painful soul-searching. An album that makes you think? We need more of this.

Anna Murray