Monday, May 21st, 2018

A Perfect Circle – So Long and Thanks for all the Fish

Boy-being meets girl-being beneath silvery moon, which then explodes for no adequately explored reason…


Ian Mathers: God, I wish I could go back in time and play this for the (well meaning!) people in high school trying to convince me that Maynard is a genius lyricist. Although joke’s on me, because overearnest high school kids who have just started to expand their horizons and are bummed out by what they see are exactly who this album is for. (The problem is not those kids; the problem is the adults who’ve never moved beyond being those kids). If anything, this is the best of the singles so far; at least it sounds moderately stirring.

Will Rivitz: When I was in eighth grade, Tool was one of my favorite bands. Their deeply, toxically misanthropic and cynical lyrics spoke to my jaded, struggling, painfully awkward teenage self, and the hard edge to Justin Chancellor’s bass and Maynard James Keenan’s howl made me feel invincible. As a now 22-year-old, I recognize the childish smarm and superficial, fake-insightful societal critiques that characterize Tool’s lyricism (“Eye on the TV, ’cause tragedy thrills me/Whatever flavor it happens to be,” from “Vicarious,” is just one of the smugly bland critiques of violent entertainment that spoke to me nearly a decade ago), and while the grooving hard rock still holds up, I no longer hold them — or A Perfect Circle, whose Thirteenth Step was one of my favorite albums back then and still holds a place or two on the nu-metal playlist I use while running — in the same esteem as I once did. That said, I recognize that Tool’s im14andthisisdeep ethos is important to legions of 14-year-olds, and I still hold an immense appreciation for Keenan’s two biggest projects and the impact they had on me and continue to have on those younger than I am. That said, if 14-year-old me had heard this MOR rock ballad, which uses strings and piano even less cleverly than, like, Skillet, and in which Keenan complains about spending money on fancy water and quality mental health care, he would have had an aneurysm.

Jonathan Bogart: Despite the best efforts of every other twenty-something guy I knew in the late ’90s and early 2000s, I never listened to A Perfect Circle, and so I’m surprised by how melodic, and innocuous, and dull this is. The apocalyptic pop-culture imagery is pitch-perfect “clever” college-rock band who got signed to a major after R.E.M. broke big, and the only thing that unites it to the signature Maynard sound is the throbbing low end. I don’t hate it, but I can’t imagine anybody but fanboys having a use for it.

Tim de Reuse: It’s not that they’re a little hamhanded — they’ve never been big on subtlety, and that’s part of their charm. But to even partially blame global instability and the prospect of thermonuclear war on a populace obsessed with “diets, lawyers, shrinks and apps and flags and plastic surgery” is at best burying the lede and at worst a fatalistic, smug South Parkian deflection. Yeah, Holden Caulfield, everyone’s a phony, we get it, and it’s certainly not having a good effect on how they vote, but it’s a point we’ve heard a million times before. This particular iteration of the argument is as digestible and deliberately un-incisive as the plot of WALL-E but fifty times as self-serious.

Juan F. Carruyo : I didn’t expect A Perfect Circle to go to Soft Bulletin all of a sudden. This works primarily because of the many lush vocal layers going on. Also of note: an insisting beat that might work out for cardio class and a guitar sound reminiscent of “Virginia Plain.” Sadly, the cheery, wistful feeling is counterbalanced by on-the-nose lyrics about nuclear warfare. Added a notch because dolphins swimming are neat.

Jessica Doyle: Once I realized Maynard James Keenan was born in 1964, this song made a lot more sense. It’s a series of invocations whose images haven’t been updated — “plastic surgery” is meant to invoke American superficiality, not Chinese apps, and the nuclear armageddon is nationwide à la The Day After, rather than Tokyo and Honolulu being the first targets. The reference to “ol’ Prince” (born in 1958) has me wondering if Keenan’s lament isn’t one of mournful apocalypticism but nostalgia for mournful apocalypticism: for back when the forces destroying the world were simultaneously grand and comprehensible. As if he spent years thinking he was going to go out with a bang and take the rest of the world with him, simultaneously helpless and powerful, but the power went elsewhere, and his generation is now succumbing, as people do, to individual whimpers: cancer, Parkinson’s, heart attacks, fraudulent pain meds. The song’s subdued tone, where neither the vocals nor the guitars ever seem to get out from underneath layers of fuzz and restraint, may thus be more honest (if not particularly fun to listen to). I don’t know if I do or don’t want to know Keenan’s reaction to even The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy references being in the hands of Korean whippersnappers.

Iain Mew: Mostly harmless. 

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4 Responses to “A Perfect Circle – So Long and Thanks for all the Fish”

  1. Welcome to Juan!

  2. Apologies for not going through with the galaxy-brain version of this entry and editing it down so that only Iain’s blurb remained.

  3. the galaxy-brain version of this entry:

  4. Thanks, Joshua!