I will do my best to explain what I can about what I love most about each song. To get the full experience you have to listen to this record yourself. You won't regret one second of it.
I recently had the grand privilege to attend an A Perfect Circle concert as well so I will do my best to recall the performances of the songs on this record alone and leave the rest to the memories of those lucky enough to have caught them that night at Red Rocks.
A Perfect Circle is Billy Howerdel: guitars, bass, and keyboards, Jeff Friedl: drums, Matt McJunkins: bass (tracks 7 and 11), and Maynard James Keenan: vocals.
1) Eat the Elephant: This beautiful, tender tune is a great way to open this album. A little complex, a little mysterious, yet to captivating. The layers of music really make this song great; the odd drum pattern with the pianos melody really stand out and carry the vocals. The feel of this tune really sets up the tone for this record. As a whole, is magnetic, complex, and beautiful and no one is prepared for what's to come.
This was the first song they performed for us that night, and what an intro it was! Immediately we were all treated to lights ad sounds that blew minds left and right. With the amphitheater we were at, the sweet, gentle sounds resonated throughout the auditorium, and we all felt the excitement and the thrill of their set finally initiating after months of waiting. Not a beat was missed by the band and Keenans voice was on point. I couldn't have thought up a better catalyst for the night.
2) Disillusioned: The sharp and vibrant notes that start off this song awaken the senses, and with the strong beat firmly established soon after, this song has got you hooked right from the get-go. With the vocals as solid as ever, you can't help but sing along (if you know the lyrics). You have to love the chorus. I cannot explain it other than a "big-open" (ambient? atmospheric?) feel. Let me just say that there is quite a bit of that in this album, so you might see me use that term a few times. This song has something very special about it, something you don't see too often in music. The band stops playing right after the chorus, and all that's left is a softly played piano echoing through your ears at about a quarter of the tempo. Vocals chime in to continue his message delivery. It's as if this section was meant to be a moment of reflection for us. "Have I gone numb to what's going on around me?" "Do I even know what's going on?" "What has humanity become?" Yes, this is a very deep song.
Their performance of this song takes place just like in the in the album, right after "Eat the Elephant". Just as you may have seen in live videos on YouTube, every member gets really into their performances. Billy, Matt, and Greg all do their own thing on stage, Jeff smashing away at his drums, and Maynard dancing and jiving on stage; all of them consumed by the music for us to enjoy. The music alone was at another sonic level. The guitar really resonated through the air, the bass guitar and kick drum thumped so hard to where I could feel it at my feet. The piano echoed so beautifully during that section after the chorus to the point of almost shedding a tear, and the vocals soared over it all quite exceptionally so as to move us all.
3) The Contrarian: The tone of this track matches the lyrics perfectly. It gives off a bit of a wary/cautious vibe. I feel it the harps piece. Almost like saying "tread carefully". With Jeff following suit behind the drums, the whole song takes on a bit of a swing feel, something you can move to. Maynards vocal harmonies have always been something I've admired, and it's something that really sets him apart from other artists, I believe, and this song is no different. I can't even describe them, but they are truly outstanding. You'll understand when you give this song a listen to.
The performance of this song really helped make that night special. No man can escape the nerves of getting on stage and performing. Maybe it was nerves or maybe he just forgot how to play it, but Billy couldn't play the intro (laughing while I write this). With a quick step aside from the keys, he looks back to the crew and shrugs, says "oops" into the mic, and continues to play the rest of the song masterfully. This helped make the night memorable, because all concerts to me make me feel like "pinch me, I must be dreaming", and little mishaps like that really help me see that I am there, that they are just human like you and me, and that they are there doing their very best for you.
As for the performance of the song itself, amazing. I could see the crowd all around me moving to the beat, taking it all in and singing along. What really stood out to me was the guitar solo and vocal performance. Billys signature sound really echoed throughout the auditorium and almost took over all the sound space! He got really into it and was moving to it, completely taken over by it. The vocal harmonies were no disappointment either. The voices of Maynard and Billy meshed perfectly into one sound. The rhythm cannot be overlooked. Jeff and Matt really held the song in place and moved the audience.
4) The Doomed: Being one of the heaviest tracks on the album, it's easy to see why this was the first single off the record. It was like a statement saying, "We're here and we're holding nothing back". This song is loud both audibly and lyrically. The song starts off with a moving drum beat. A straight 4/4 on the hands with offset kick drum hits that could throw off a person here or there. As amazing as this song is as a whole, the chorus really stands out. The rhythmic drums, the staccato guitar and bass, and vocal pattern all make it sound like a kind of chant; a loud and clear chant. "Blessed are the fornicates...Blessed are the rich... Blessed are the envious... Blessed are the gluttonous". And in the end it turns around to mirror the words in the bridge, "Doomed are the poor. Doomed are the peaceful. Doomed are the meek. Doomed are the merciful". This is yet another tune that really makes you stop and think, because the lyrics are direct and thrown right in your face.
This track live was incredible. If you thought the studio version was powerful... you have no idea. The whole crowd was either bouncing, head-banging, or throwing their fists to the sky to the music. It was an awesome sight. During the choruses, the crowd would chant along, the stage lights would flash to the beat, specifically when Jeff would hit his snare (with great ferocity I might add) on the down beat. A great performance/experience that will stay with me.
5) So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish: This song has a different feel to it from most all of APC music. It's more upbeat and has a "joyous" vibe, even though the lyrics are not. It's more sarcastic than anything else. The music will make you move in your seat wherever you are, or at least make you move your feet. The lyrics however touch on the topic of loss. Just some of the good people we've lost you probably remember are Gene Wilder, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, and Muhammad Ali.
Growing up, Gene Wilder was a big part of my life. I grew up on Willy Wonka and Young Frankenstein, among his other films, but I'd watch those two constantly and I always said to myself, "I want to meet him someday and shake his hand". Alas, it never happened. And of course, being a geek, Carrie Fisher was also a big part of my childhood with her character in Star Wars. Believe you me, if you get me talking about Star Wars, it's hard to get me stop. Now, I was never a big sports fan, but I do know people that knew Ali, and they miss him everyday, they always say he was a good man. And finally, we could talk ALL day about Bowie, but suffice to say that he will be missed tremendously. A true living legend, he was.
After straying a bit there, the lyrics also touch on the vanity of humanity, doing everything possible and spending anything possible to have "the best" or look "the best". Meanwhile, we ignore what's happening around us in a world falling apart.
This song live was quite amazing to witness as well. As you might expect from seeing the title and if you've seen the music video, the lights and screens portrayed sea life swimming around in a calming sea-foam green ocean. Another thing I witnessed was when Maynard sang, "Now Willy Wonka, Major Tom, Ali, and Leia have moved on..." the people with drinks in their hands raised it to the sky in memory of them. It was a moving performance for sure and was one of the many highlights of that night. Amazing.
6) TalkTalk: This track takes a step back as far as tempo. But don't be fooled, this song is also a sturdy punch to the gut, quite heavy! The lyrics are strong, straight forward, and bold. I'll let you hear it and take it in for yourselves. But, I'll just say that a lot of people need to hear this. One thing that really stood out to me in this song and this album as a whole was the vocal performance. If you've heard this song already, you know what I'm talking about. During the lyrics "...out of my way", Maynard yells to what what seems like at the top of his voice, and it sends a thrilling chill right down the spine! The breakdown at the chorus is also great. The musicians all follow the same broken pattern leading up to the climax at Maynards loudest. At that point, Howerdel makes his guitar scream melodically and Friedl plays a straight 3/4 beat to solidify the song.
Seeing this song performed live was also quite a treat. Even thought the whole tune was played perfectly, again, I'm going to focus on the chorus here for a bit. Billy, Matt, Greg, and Jeff all hammered away on their respective instruments. It was a sight to see watching them on stage killing it and moving around to the music, but when Keenan shouted "...out of my way", it was dare I say even more powerful than the studio version, in every sense of the word. The lights and screens on stage really reflected that big-open/ambient feel post chorus vocals when Howerdel made his guitar scream. The lights streamed and floated through the air really complimenting that vibe.
7) By and Down the River: This one here is one of my favorites off this record. Yes, once again the vocals play a big part of that, but the song as a whole progresses like a story, like an epic tale. It stars off a bit gentle and slow, but gradually increases in intensity and power. The vocal performance does the same, he sings tenderly into the mic initially and as the story continues he gets louder and more intense to add to the power of the journey. I also really enjoy how the vocals seem to dance around the music, going in and out of time beautifully. The songs great crescendo from beginning to end is probably the bands greatest to date, in my opinion. The tune ends with all the instruments clashing and fading, and finally the pianos subtly and beauty finishing it all off as it started off this journey. One more thing about this song that I want to emphasize on is the break-down section. It's heavy, but at the same time delicate, I'm not sure how else to describe it. The bass guitar and drums keep steady quarter notes while the guitar pumps out a great "chunky" sound from the palm muted strings. I love that section and it gives me chills every time.
8) Delicious: Here is a great tune that rides that fine line between heavy and smooth. Great distorted guitars, rough vocals, smashing cymbals, but also ambient, soft notes, and lightly beats. Plenty can be said about this song, but I'd like to magnify on the grand finale of it. Starting at about 2 minutes and 30 seconds the musicians go into and extended jam and it really hits you right in the ticker. It's loud, atmospheric, warming, and eargasmic. From the first few times I heard this record, I'd think to myself, "Gee, this would be the most perfect concert closer". (And funnily enough...)
This song was the last track performed that night. It was absolutely perfect. This song really brought everyone together. Everyone moved and swayed to the music, and that great atmospheric vibe at the end of the song was enhanced by our surroundings and blazing lights. I recall a great octopus extended across all the screens on stage moving and swaying as we all were, blue lights flashing and searing the stage, and that great APC logo atop it all to bring it all to a close. I don't think for one minute that that concert could have ended any better than it did. Absolutely incredible! What an ending.
9) DLB: This is a bit of a musical interlude, but not to be overlooked by any means. The sweet piano solo that takes this album head-on is ballsy, and just plain fantastic! I could listen to this song on a loop and it'll soothe this soul, and possibly rock me to sleep. Such an alluring solo!
10) Hourglass: Here is a song that I believe could have fit with either A Perfect Circle or Puscifer, it's that electronic, but at the same time, it's that heavy. This song being on this album really shows you just how diverse and adaptable this band really is. It's really quite a magnetic song! The beat is strong and solid, the electronics are loud in all good sense of the word, and the vocals are so different compared to the rest of the album that it's almost like another breath of fresh air. It actually reminds me of Daft Punk (which I'm a fan of). Like I said, this song is so left field of this album as a whole, but it fits right in, because every song is actually a bit different from the rest. This shows the sort of melting-pot of influences we're dealing with here. Outstanding! Wouldn't you say??
This is the last song off this album that they played that night, and what a performance it was. Due to such a strong, solid beat performed by Jeff and Matt, the entire audience was jumping and moving about! The light show reflected such a radical sound flashing and dancing throughout the audience and the sky. What was really cool was seeing/hearing all the people count down with Maynard, "8, 7, 6... 5, 4, 3, 2"; all either threw their hands up in the air in a pumping fashion or to count down on their fingers. They really shouted it out! I personally did the finger count-down. Everyone was into it. It was exciting to see and be apart of.
11) Feathers: This delicate song helps bring the energy down a bit. It's something to really relax to with more big-open sounds and some open spaces that are occupied by nothing but a soothing piano and serene vocals. This is such a stunning and radiant track. Again, another rock-solid beat in the back that's well spaced with the piano and guitar to make something mellow but still moving. It really gives you space to take in everything you've heard thus far and even braces you for the records conclusion. A great song for sure, and I'd compare it to the album opener, maybe even call this "Eat the Elephant II", it's that captivating.
12) Get the Lead Out: The only way I can really describe this one is if "Hourglass" had taken some Ritalin, this would be the aftermath, but not in a bad way. It's quite tasty. Still some strong beats thumping out of the bass and drums, but not as vivid and loud. Still some pattern in the vocals, but more calm/tame. Still some pulsing electronics, but not as palpable or loud. This is quite a song indeed. It's like a rhythmic wave goodbye. Still a bit off the beaten path, but still a touch of aggression that's very prevalent throughout this album. Still undeniably A Perfect Circle.
This album is one amazing journey. Musically, lot's of influences/flavours that really send you on a trip. It's so aggressive in every way and it's something we all really need now. I'm out of words to describe what happened here, but it truly was astounding and absolutely fantastic. I cannot describe how much I love this record and how much it meant to finally see them perform.
The Red Rocks show was out of this world. The lights, the sounds, the emotions. This is something I will remember for the rest of my life, just like how I will remember Maynard forgetting a line of lyrics (laughing (as he did)), or when he would dance or jive around so much so that his platform moved and shook beneath his feet! Again, just another think that made that night memorable. Everything they played, whether it was old or new, they gave it 300% and I thank them all for that. Maynard, Jeff, Billy, Matt, and Greg, if any of you read this, thank you, thank you, thank you.
In conclusion, I cannot stop listening to this album to save my life. I really cannot wait for the next APC record, but I know when it comes, it'll blow my mind too.