Ayo Jegede
reviews editor
November 21, 2003
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Rock Music Reviews
A Perfect Circle
Thirteenth Step

when it comes right down to it, i don't think i'd have a beer with maynard james keenan. it's not that i feel as though i'm somehow above him; quite the opposite is true. it seems as if throughout his career with Tool, APC, and even lesser-known outfits like the Pigmy Love Circus, Maynard & co. have always posited music as more than just an amusing creation. that's all well and good, but the problem is when this belief is used as a backdrop to the music one makes. thus, implicitly, MJK's attitude towards music as a whole leads us (or at least me) to believe that he determines the music he makes is above the mediocre.

and he's right, case and point being A Perfect Circle's new release, Thirteenth Step. by invigilating all ruminations about what the record would actually sound like, the tension fans felt could be cut, nay, shredded by a toenail. upon its release, i purchased it and listened to it no less than 20 times in 3 days. it's a fine cd, capable of whetting fans' appetites. still, the album only rises above mediocrity; it doesn't show itself to be paramount to their previous work. the problem is that with Mer De Noms, MJK could truly say that the music produced was of a sharper caliber than most other things. after all, with members like Troy Van Leuwen from Failure and Paz Lechantin from [the now defunct] Zwan, there was an amazing sense of intellective diversity.

but Thirteenth Step originally used Danny Lohner (NIN) to replace Troy and Jeordi White (Marilyn Manson) to replace Paz. this translated to a lack of the ornate, since NIN and Marilyn Manson haven't really evidenced any predilection to the aforementioned quality (note: this does not mean they aren't good bands). a common misconception is that James Iha replaced Troy, when in fact he was added after all the songs were completed; he didn't author those songs, but he knows how to play them extremely well. on the album, the band tries and tries to fill the space on a record and sometimes it works beautifully (and surprisingly). 'The Nurse Who Loved Me,' a Failure cover, proceeds with a milky candescence that's amazing to hear. 'A Stranger' moves with the echoing guitar and drums while 'The Noose' travels a constant until it eventually explodes in a wall of noise, leaving the listener to appreciate a mélange of melancholy and emotion. 'Gravity,' the best song on the album, is the closer that Mer De Noms never had and almost desperately needed.

but for all those tracks there are others which do not possess the expected strength. an example is 'Vanishing,' which was first intriguing but later became a nuisance because of its dreadful, statical nature. 'Pet' is thick but without guidance, so the riffs sound recycled and tired. though 'Crimes' worked quite well as an interlude, 'Lullaby' overdid it. the vocals weren't very involved and the production seemed wholly lackluster. still, overall this remains a powerful album well worth the $15. like i said, i wouldn't have a beer with MJK because he confounds his belief about music with the music he makes. it's also why Thirteenth Step won't make my top 10 of 2003.

Release date: September 16, 2003
Label: Virgin
Rating: 8.0 / 10