October 2, 2003

Test Spin: A Perfect Circle

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As I sit in my dorm room writing this article, the sounds of Rick James’s “Superfreak” float dangerously down the hall towards my ears. In order to stave off insanity, I place a green-colored CD into my Discman and press play. Luckily, it is Thirteenth Step, the new A Perfect Circle record, and I am saved.

Though not as heavy as their debut release, Thirteenth Step features a few hard songs interspersed with several melodic, softer compositions. It shows a definite progression from the band’s first album, but retains the eerie tone characteristic of guitarist Billy Howerdel’s songwriting. And, as always, frontman Maynard James Keenan’s lyrics provide a striking balance of tumultuous emotion and reserved introspection. And he screams a lot less on this album than on the band’s first.

My favorite songs thus far are “The Outsider,” which takes a critical look at suicide, and “Pet,” a creepy yet catchy tune that seems to be about the boogieman. Another stand-out track is “The Nurse Who Loved Me,” a cover song, which is characterized by an ethereal, symphonic soundscape. Of course, the entire album consists of strange and beautiful songs, rather typical of the band.

Although I can’t decide if this album is better than their first, I do know that A Perfect Circle is one of the few groups who prove mainstream rock still has a chance. Thirteenth Step has me convinced.

Archived article by Ratheet Pandya