Around and Around They Go
Tool’s Maynard James Keenan’s side project, A Perfect Circle, released three albums between 2000 and 2004, and as any good side project should, it displayed a range of talents that differed from his main band. A Perfect Circle was more artistic and melodic, often capturing Keenan’s subdued side. In 2010, the band, including founding member Billy Howerdel and former Smahing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, started touring again and hinted at the possibility of some new songs, if not an entire album. What fans received instead was Three Sixty, a compilation of the band’s favorite tunes, some live tracks and one new song.
Three Sixty plays like a chronological history of the band; the first five songs are five out of the first six on their 2000 debut, Mer de Noms. This works well for newcomers. “The Hollow” shows the heavy side of A Perfect Circle and introduces a restrained Keenan, always poised to explode but not quite ready. “Rose,” “Judith” and “3 Libras” start out quiet and mellow. The last of those reveals the singer at his most vulnerable, allowing his distinctive voice to reveal its true tone, which is slightly nasal but entirely honest. As if apologizing for this lapse in brutishness, there is a live version of the same song that is heavied-up, yet loses nothing of its effectiveness.
The lone new track, “By and Down,” is another addition to the quieter side of A Perfect Circle, but it fits right in with the rest of their dense, dark and pensive material. Also included are some of the cover songs pulled from 2004’s eMOTIVe, rendered nearly unrecognizable by collective efforts of the musicians. “Imagine” has morphed from a affirmation to a dirge; “When the Levee Breaks” has been downgraded from killer rock anthem to an ephemeral jazz sleeper. But that, too, is one of Keenan’s trademarks: turning classic songs on their ears.
Three Sixty will do nothing to excite existing fans. In fact, it may alienate some whose hopes were high following the recent tour. But if you are a fan of rule-bending art-metal and are unfamiliar with the full range of Maynard James Keenan’s talents, then you will enjoy this compilation from start to finish.