A Perfect Circle started as the Tool side project from Maynard James Keenan that we never knew we needed until it came to be, but its third release proves to be as unnecessary as it is well intended.
The logic behind eMOTIVe, which was released on Election Day, is easy to understand. In a dangerous and uncertain sociopolitical climate, when the phrase "terror attack" is blared daily, what better time to revisit some of the most moving songs of peace?
You couldn't expect covers of John Lennon's Imagine or Marvin Gaye's What's Going On from Tool, a band best played at level 13. So it's A Perfect Circle, Mr. Keenan's melodic, theatrical and gentler project, that gets the task of tackling those songs along with Depeche Mode's People Are People, Devo's Freedom of Choice ... you get the idea.
Listening to the CD, it's hard not to think of Mr. Keenan's friend Tori Amos, who covered Eminem and Slayer with mixed success on Strange Little Girls in 2001. As with that CD, there are some interesting tidbits here. Let's Have A War is every bit as forboding, sarcastic and pressing as the original penned by the Los Angeles band Fear.
Mr. Keenan never raises his voice much higher than the church choirlike chorus backing him, and the song, which thrums along at an even pace, devolves into paranoid whispers. It certainly passes the cover-song test - whether it adds a new frame of understanding to what's already there.
The same cannot be said for People Are People, to which a bafflingly annoying bridge of whiny, high pitched la-la-las, was added. Imagine is merely passable. Sure, it's a lush, orchestral soundscape, and Mr. Keenan has the pipes to do the original justice. But Mr. Lennon made do with just a piano and some strings; this version is deep and dark enough to somehow be a downer. It's not ironic or capricious, just heavy-handed.
A Perfect Circle is better served playing its own music, as is shown on the two original tunes on this disc. Passive, which Mr. Keenan and guitarist Billy Howerdel wrote with Trent Reznor and Danny Lohner, of Nine Inch Nails, is A Perfect Circle at its finest: incisive, melodic, soothing and oddly comforting in an artsy, yet angry way. It's not easy to know when to shout and when to whisper, or when to project roar or quiver, but this hits the mark. It's such a shame the rest of the disc falls short.
What: A Perfect Circle, eMOTIVe (Virgin)
The verdict: HH out of HHHHH
Reach Patrick Verel at (706) 823-3332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.