A Perfect Circle
May 23, 2000
Music and words: Billy Howerdel, Maynard James Keenan
Produced by Billy Howerdel.
Mixed by Alan Moulder and Billy Howerdel.
- The Hollow (2:58). Vocals - Maynard, Billy. Guitars & Bass - Billy. Drums - Tim Alexander.
- Magdalena (4:04). Vocals - Maynard. Guitars & Bass - Billy. Drums - Josh.
- Rose (3:25). Vocals - Maynard. Guitars, Bass & Programming - Billy. Drums - Josh. Violin & String arrangement - Paz.
- Judith (4:05). Vocals - Maynard, Billy, Paz. Guitars & Bass - Billy. Drums - Josh.
- Orestes (4:47). Vocals - Maynard, Billy, Paz. Guitars, Bass & Keyboards - Billy. Drums - Josh.
- 3 Libras (3:37). Vocals - Maynard. Guitars & Bass - Billy. Drums - Josh. Violins - Paz. Viola - Luciano Lenchantin.
- Sleeping Beauty (4:08). Vocals - Maynard. Guitars - Billy. Drums - Josh. Bass - Paz. End lead guitar - Troy.
- Thomas (3:28). Vocals - Maynard, Billy. Guitars, Bass & programming - Billy. Drums - Josh. Percussion - Draven Godwin.
- Renholdër (2:23). Vocals - Maynard, Billy, Paz, Kelli Shafer. Guitar & Piano - Billy. Drums & Percussion - Josh. Violin - Paz.
- Thinking of You (4:32). Vocals - Maynard, Billy. Guitars, Bass & Programming - Billy. Drums - Josh. End lead guitar - Troy.
- Breña (4:04). Vocals - Maynard, Billy. Guitars & Bass - Billy. Drums - Josh.
- Over (2:20). Vocals - Maynard. Gord - Maynard. Piano - Billy.
The album comes in a standard jewel case. The front cover has the words 'A Perfect Circle' in front of two columns of runes that read: 'La Cascade des Prenoms', along with the band logo in copper leaf. Inside the cover slip are the titles of the tracks and short taglines for them, encoded into the same runes. These titles and taglines have been decoded in other writeups here.
Typically for a debut album, the back cover of the slip shows the band members and has notes of thanks. Credits for the songs are on the jewel case paper behind the CD. The back has the band logo and a track listing, along with track lengths.
The LP version of the album has a large spiral of text on the back, with each of the track names and their lyrics, along with 'APC' in the background in runes.
All in all, the outer packaging of this album is fairly standard, although the runes are an innovative gimmick for the cover slip.
- The Hollow - the album opens strongly with Maynard seeking to break out of a cycle of superficial pleasures and replace it with something with meaning. The guitar breaking through the silence after Maynard's 'screaming...' is the high point of this song.
- Magdalena - it is with this song that we see what the 'something' Maynard is seeking might be. This is the first of the songs on the album to be named after someone - whether it has any relation to the biblical character Mary Magdalene is unclear, but there is a definite use of religious language. The feeling expressed is that of a consuming desire for the object of the song, and although she is described as 'such a lovely goddess' with the 'holiest of altars', we are led to doubt her purity.
- Rose - this song starts with a slightly otherworldly sound, leading into Maynard's vocals. The song plays on a pun on the word 'Rose' - as a flower, and as the past tense of 'rise'. It describes an escape from an abusive relationship that Maynard felt trapped in - a 'self destructive dance' until he 'rose' and 'roared aloud'. The song alternates between the otherworldly sound of the start and a heavy guitar and drum led sound before dropping down to strings - a feature of the album which give it a great feeling of depth.
- Judith - the band's first single is probably the heaviest-sounding track on the album. It talks about someone trapped by her faith, which Maynard sees as damaging her - 'praise the one who left you broken down and paralysed / he did it all for you'. The emotions are very strong, and consistent with someone who sees a good friend slipping away: 'Fuck your God.'
- Orestes - wow. This is a song about matricide, and it's incredibly beautiful. Maynard feels such hostility and love for his mother at the same time that the only solution he sees is to kill her, but he is prevented by his love: 'Gotta cut away, clear away / and sever this / umbilical residue / keeping me from killing you'. The haunting choral voices in the background during the instrumentals really add to the atmosphere. Definitely my favourite track on the album.
- 3 Libras - the band's second single makes good use of strings to convey feelings of sadness. This appears to be directed at the subject of Judith. Maynard is trying to reach her, but she is unable to respond. This song deals with his feelings at being 'passed over'. He realises, though, that he is 'expecting just a little bit too much from the wounded'.
- Sleeping Beauty - another song full of despair, this is about a relationship in which Maynard believed he could save someone from herself, and was not able to. All he can do is watch her slip away, and wonder what could have been. On the LP, this song is Sleeping Beauty (Extended Intro) and runs for 5:02.
- Thomas - this song seems to be about Maynard considering Christianity again in his desperation to connect to 'Judith'. He is 'humbled and hopeless' and starting to see faith as his only exit.
- Renholdër - the runic 'tagline' for this track is 'and I will not fall down', and I think that sums this beautiful track up wonderfully. Maynard has not succumbed to the faith described in Judith. He has evaluated it and come out the other side. Although there are credits for vocals for this song, there are no lyrics: instead, the band use their voices as instruments. It is musically haunting, and builds up all the way to the end.
- Thinking of You - at last, out of nowhere, 'Judith' falls. Maynard has heard her lie, and knows that this is the first sign of her 'sweet revelation'. At last, he is able to connect to her, and so he is unable to sleep for excitement. Musically, this song conveys feelings of happiness and excitement, helped in no small way by Maynard's voice.
- Breña - a straight love song, describing the tenderness shared between the two protagonists as they 'heal' each other. The title is pronounced 'Bren-ya'.
- Over - just as the tagline says, Maynard has been over this before. At the very end, there is a crescendo before the track ends, suggesting that the album could go on forever, or maybe just start again. On the LP, this song is Over (Alt.) and 2:43.
My thoughts on the album
A Perfect Circle's incredible debut album certainly lives up to its name, providing us with cleverly named tracks that relate to 'prenoms'. Although at first glance, it could be seen to be a collection of songs about different relationships, and there are some tracks which reinforce this (The Hollow, Orestes), I believe that the main thrust of the album concerns Maynard's relationship with someone who is a slave to her faith.
Although the album is filled with despair and sadness, it is full of beauty, and the tracks Thinking of You and BreÃƒÂ±a carry some hope. For someone coming from my history, it is very easy to relate to.
The concept of 'falling' is important to this album - succumbing to the blind faith portrayed in Judith is seen as falling, as opposed to the traditional ideas of The Fall and fallen angels.
All in all, a very impressive debut, and a breath of fresh air to the tired rock scene.
With thanks to:
A Perfect Circle