One reason A Perfect Circle resonate with such power is because the bandmembers are dedicated to their art – whether it’s catchy and commercial or sprawling and inaccessible to the mainstream. They immerse themselves in their songs, which are as much a part of themselves as a reflection of their personalities. And they present their vision in a striking and unconventional manner, singing from behind a screen, performing in near darkness and greeting the media with complete indifference.
The band’s new album, The Thirteenth Step, due September 16, is textural, evocative and moody – metallic art-rock for the clinically depressed. The title seems like a reference to life after a drug and alcohol treatment program, but ever-elusive vocalist Maynard James Keenan, who also sings for Tool, shrugs off any such analysis.
“I’ve been in L.A. for about 13 years,” he said in a barely audible voice. “For me, it’s a whole new year, a whole new idea and a whole new project. So it’s my 13th step, and next year will be my 14th in regards to living in Los Angeles.”
Maybe so, but the first single, “Weak and Powerless,” suggests that there’s more to the title than mere chronology. Lines like, “Someone feed the monkey while I dig in search of China/ White as Dracula as I approach the bottom” seem to deal with addiction, as does the chorus, “Desperate and ravenous/ I’m so weak and powerless over you.”
“Everybody has their demons they need to exorcise or at least acknowledge,” Keenan said. “Most music that I like that’s fairly powerful has some element of struggle in it. Like every other wonderful story, there’s comedy and tragedy and conflict. I think that’s present in all good art.”
“Weak and Powerless” starts with a brooding bassline and tricking guitars before bursting in to an insistent beat at an unconventional tempo. The chorus resonates with asymmetrical guitar lines and a harmonized vocal that makes the song easier to digest.
Like most things A Perfect Circle, “Weak and Powerless” is a tale of paradox. The song was one of the last completed for The Thirteenth Step yet one of the first tunes band founder and guitarist Billy Howerdel ever wrote. And though it will be perceived as a taster for Thirteenth Step, it’s least representative of the rest of the disc.
“I had it lying around for a long time and then it went through a few changes this year,” Howerdel said. “[Drummer] Josh [Freese] and Maynard worked on the rhythm and changed it up and breathed some new life into it. All of a sudden it was like having a new song. It has more of a roll to it now and more of a constant energy. It’s something a little different for us as a band.”
The Brothers Strause (Staind, Nickelback) are completing a video for “Weak and Powerless,” and while band refused to talk about the visuals, Keenan said, “The plot of the words is the plot of the video.”
A Perfect Circle are on tour and will join Lollapalooza for seven shows beginning August 15 in Phoenix.