Twenty years ago, I was sixteen and my friends and I skipped school on 4-20. We'd planned it and looked forward to it for weeks. We hung out at Jesse's house, got high all day, and made food we bought at Aldi. It was a blast. I was also the only one who didn't get caught in their fake calling-in to school. (Sorry, Mom. You shouldn't have let Gary have the authorization with the school to call me in sick. LOL) Not since high school, twenty years ago, have I looked forward to a 4-20 so much as I have looked forward to this year.
This week, I'm making a bit of a departure from my "normal" blogs to talk about what happened today--on this fantastic, wondrous day of April 20th, 2018. Today, Eat the Elephant, A Perfect Circle's first new studio album in 14 years, has hit the shelves.
If you've ever met me, you know how much I love music. Had I found a worthy band and gotten a recording contract before an author contract, I'd probably be doing that now instead. But, life is what it is and it happened how it did. There is no changing the past. So, like much of what I do, now I sing entirely for my own entertainment. I don't often sing "for others." I do it for myself, and mostly when I'm alone.
People at work hear me sing, though, because it is how I often pass the time while doing monotonous tasks. My boss also has many of the same bands on his iPod, so when he has his music on, I'm likely to sing along. Especially if it's Maynard.
Now, I could write a long, gushing essay about how Maynard James Keenan's music, lyrics, and attitude have altered my life. I'd struggle to keep that essay under 10,000 words. I am not, however, a crazy TOOL fan. Hey, stop rolling your fucking eyes at me and let me explain. I DO NOT believe that Maynard is Jesus. I have every reason to believe that he is a normal, mortal man with no supernatural abilities, divine origins, or anything crazy like that. I do, however, think that he is far more intelligent than the vast majority of not only his fans but the population as a whole. I think that he is incredibly observant and when this is combined with his intelligence, he's able to make very poignant and eloquent statements in his lyrics. I also think that his slightly-burnt-pumpernickel-toast-sense-of-humor is just my style.
I'm sure you can't even imagine how fucking stoked I was when I saw the email from A Perfect Circle announcing a new album and tour. I immediately sent a text to my boss. "May 16th. Columbia. Maynard is coming. We have to go." He agreed. When he got home from work, he and his wife bought four tickets for us to go to the show.
Next thing I did was pre-order the album. After that, I headed over to YouTube to seek out tracks that had already been released from the upcoming album, Eat the Elephant.
You can't tell me those aren't powerful lyrics. Maynard is a self-proclaimed "armed snowflake." Sounds to me like this is his own personal commentary on the shootings that keep happening. He's chastising the hypocritical right-wingers who want to offer nothing more than thoughts and prayers for victims and survivors. This song says oh, so much more than what the actual lyrics are saying. I love this track. "Try walking your talk or get the fuck out of my way" leaves it unsaid, unfinished. Get out of my way so that I can walk your talk. Life is so precious? Abortions are bad--don't kill our children--but let everyone have guns, even crazy fuckers that will probably kill someone someday? Fuck you. You're talk-talking out of both sides of your mouth and you need to shut the fuck up.
The lyrics to this one are also incredibly powerful. What could possibly make this song even more impactful? How about staring into the sorrowful eyes of the musicians who created this hypnotic work of art? Because that is the official video. Watch it below. Stare into those eyes and tell me that you aren't moved. Also, it is "new beatitude" not "newbie attitude." Beatitude is a word and people who can't use Google to figure that out are TSTL. I get that both ways make sense in the context, and that is just another layer to the genius of Maynard's lyrics. Just like "Gather at the altering" is a play on both an altar for sacrifices as well as change. Seriously, though, if you don't know what a beatitude is, look it up. It makes the song make so much more sense. You already know what it is, even if you don't recall the word.
This simple video is powerful, mesmerizing, and touching. They look so sad, so disappointed. It's real. I felt it deep in my chest, this rising ache of sorrow, this wretched feeling of shame for my fellow mankind, that we have come so far, only to fall even farther. Having been a victim of abuse and bullying throughout much of my early life, I've had to become very adept at reading people's expressions and body language. So, maybe you can't see it like I can. The pain and regret in their eyes--the ruefulness that shines through--may be invisible to you if you're unobservant, but it is there. Maynard's eyes seem to challenge the watcher to be the change they want to see. This song is heartbreaking but inspiring. It's just part of the swing of the sadness pendulum.
I knew this one was my favorite the first time I heard it. "Lie supine away with your back to the ground. Dis- and re-connect to the resonance now. You were never an island. Unique voice among the many in this choir. Tuning into each other lifts all higher." FUCK YES! How mesmerizingly touching this instructive, hopeful song is to me. It shows us that Maynard is not all doom and gloom. There is pity, sorrow, and hope in his heart for the human race.
Then we add in the visuals of the video itself...wow. Just fucking wow. It is a visceral metaphor for how we are all living, attached to our devices, hypnotized by them, unable to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us, if only we could look to see it. But we're trying to look through the filter of technology, which pales in comparison to the actual thing. See how inclusive this video is? It is people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and colors. We are all one--we are all humankind. We are all in this together, and we all need to WAKE THE FUCK UP!
Now, those three were the only "official releases" for months before the album came out, but APC does something wondrous that so many bands don't do. They play new songs at live shows before a new album has even been announced. This means I was also able to find two more songs from the new album on YouTube. YAY!
Here's another haunting melody that sucks me right in. The words carry me even deeper into a sorrowful oblivion where we wish for healing that seems just out of grasp. We must share together so that we can heal together. We are all damaged, but by poking at each other repeatedly, we're merely keeping our wounds open. There are some veiled phrases in this song, but it's Maynard, so when is there not? I think feathers means weightless, as in--let their opinions carry no weight. In the end, we're all the same; we're all just people struggling with our own lives. But if we share together, maybe we can heal together. If only we could struggle together instead of against each other...
The album version is a little different. The lyrics are slightly changed, but they are lovely nonetheless. The pace of the music is slightly slower in some places, which leads to a sort of hypnotic state. The drums made my heart stutter, the guitars caused me to sway from side to side, and the piano was a perfect touch. His voice...sweet Cheesus, the raw, honest emotion in Maynard's voice brought tears to my eyes. I don't know how anyone can hear him sing and not hear the voice of an angel. Sadness like a pendulum, indeed.
This song is another bold commentary on our oligarchy/republic/joke-of-a-democracy here in America. Since he's using an effect on his voice, it's hard to understand some of the lyrics. Some of them are words that I've heard before but don't fully understand. I guess I'll get to tack a few more words onto the list of "Words Maynard Taught Me." I really like the music, though, even if it is hard to understand all of the words. But the band is absolutely fabulous. APC isn't just Maynard, after all. One line is very clear, though. "No hope left in the hourglass." Clearly, this track is another scathing commentary about our atomic society that is on the verge of destruction.
The album version is much cleaner, crisper, and easy to understand. The scrolling x-ray lyrics on Amazon Music aren't hurting that. It's a great song. I really do enjoy the effects he's using on his voice. Seriously--go buy the album and listen for yourself.
The Rest of the Album
I bought a physical CD on Amazon that is supposed to be delivered to me today. My UPS guy usually comes before noon, but I post my blogs at 7 AM. Well, guess what? Amazon gave me free downloads for buying the pre-order! At midnight on 4-20, I got a digital download of the album into my Amazon Music app. It even came with lyrics! And I've spent all night listening to the APC songs I've never heard before.
I won't lie. I was brought to tears. Only real music can do that to me. Genuine, heartfelt creations that come from the depths of their souls tug at my own and elicit deep reactions from me. Maynard is good at that since it would seem that he is so unapologetically himself. Through his lyrics, he shares his insights, humor, worries, joys, sorrows, shame, and creativity. He's not just a singer, he's a performer and a storyteller.
Maynard James Keenan, Otep Shamaya, and Trent Reznor are the three most "real" vocalists I've ever heard. I've listened to a lot of albums by a lot of artists--I mean, come on, my heart wouldn't beat without music--and I've noticed that many seem to pigeonhole themselves into a certain style and/or small cluster of emotions. Which is fine. If I'm feeling goofy and a little funky, I'll listen to some early Incubus. If I need to move fast and have a good beat, I'll probably throw on some System of a Down or Rage Against the Machine. If I'm working on a novel or short story, I'll throw on something without lyrics--usually Tchaikovsky or maybe some Prokofiev if I'm feeling sassy.
By And Down The River
By and Down was released on a previous album, 360. It was a "greatest hits" album and this was the only new song on it. The video above is that previous song. But, Maynard will be Maynard. If you've ever listened to his music, you know he likes to rework his songs. Just because it's finished doesn't mean it can't be altered and changed to fit a different mood or situation. People grow; so should their music. I really admire that about his work. He doesn't allow it to stay static and stagnant.
The new version, By and Down the River, has mostly the same lyrics. The music is enchanting, haunting, and a little sad. It sounds like it's a really personal song about learning to accept that someone isn't who you used to think they were. In the new album version, his voice is a bit deeper and more resonant. He also enunciates a bit more, making the lyrics easier to decipher.
If one wanted to, I suppose this song could also be a Trump commentary. One that hopes for him to get his comeuppance soon.
Eat The Elephant
We were eating dinner when this popped up on my YouTube last night, so my husband was with me when I heard this song for the first time. He doesn't listen to American music unless I'm playing it and singing. He really does love it when I sing, so I try to sing while I'm in the kitchen if I'm in the mood. With all these new songs, I've been playing music in the kitchen even more often than I used to. Anyway...he has trouble picking out the words of the lyrics unless I'm singing them. Neither one of us had ever heard this song, but the music was so soft and lovely, he was able to pick it out and tell me first that this is a love song.
At first, because I misheard the lyrics, I thought he was wrong. But, I'm going to have to apologize to him when he calls to wake me up for work. After seeing the x-ray lyrics on my Amazon Music app, I can see that it is a love song. It must be for Maynard's wife. He's married, isn't he? I feel like I heard he got hitched and had a little girl several years back. Yes, that's right. I saw her on his Instagram. This is a love song for his wife. It's very beautiful. She pushes him to try new things, to keep finding his limits and then moving beyond them. She sounds awesome and totally ideal for him.
"Beware the contrarian." It's some damned good advice. Seems like I've heard it somewhere else. Yeah, so, I don't know how many times I can get away with calling a song on this album a scathing social commentary, but this one is certainly one of them. Of course, no names are used, so this song could--theoretically--be about anyone. But let's not kid ourselves. It's about Trump. "Hello, he lied." Yeah. "Advocate of none." Right. None but himself. This song is wicked harsh and I fucking love it.
Update: It's been a whole month now and I've given this song a lot of thought. I don't feel like it is the classic definition of a contrarian--one who always goes against popular opinion. I wonder if this is intended to portray a slightly different definition--one who always says "no, you're wrong" no matter what others say, because the contrarian must always argue and distract. "Look over here and listen to my big mouth while I do sneaky things behind my back and under the table." Then again, I'm probably just filtering it through my view of this song being about Fuckface Von Clownstick. But, as many have pointed out, Fuckface does not have a smooth, heroin smile. He's a smarmy little snake with beady eyes. So, this song is probably just a general warning and those of us who are projecting onto the shit-stain that's soiling our highest office are merely ignoring the lines that don't apply to him.
So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish
This song was released on YouTube just days before the album was officially released. Above, is the video. I was shocked the first time I heard it. The music is unlike any other APC song we've ever heard, but I can dig it. The music borders on cheerful, while the lyrics are anything but. It is a biting commentary about where we're headed in the world. Our heroes have left us and if we continue down the path we're on, we'll all be blown away by atomic bombs. We waste our time, money, and resources on useless bullshit, celebrate it, and ignore the real problems. Well, those real problems are going to spell our fucking doom. The Marilyn Monroe line references a movie with her and Einstein. I really want to find it and watch it.
Speaking of movies, you know this is a reference to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, right? Because...Maynard. This guy has to make jokes even while he's totally fucking serious. I love it.
This song sounds more like older APC to me. It also reminds me a bit of TOOL's Vicarious, in that it seems to be about watching someone else suffer and getting some sort of satisfaction. Jesus tits...could this be another song about Trump? Maybe he wrote it when it looked like Trump was going to get taken out of power by the whole Russian collusion thing.
This song is very piano heavy. Actually, it's just pretty heavy all around. Deep notes and minor keys elicit a feeling of sadness and sorrow. There are no words. It sounds very Nine Inch Nails and makes me wonder if Tapeworm isn't starting to intrude on A Perfect Circle. I like it, even if it is pretty short at just over two minutes. It serves the same purpose as the instrumental TOOL songs--it's a buffer and an intro between tracks.
Get The Lead Out
Like DLB, this song reminds me of NIN because it's piano heavy and trippy. A minute into the song, it skips out and seems to start over. The pace is slow and mellow, which seems contrary to the title and the lyrics of trying to hurry one along. "Suck it up, buttercup." Fan-fucking-tastic! Even though this song sounds like Massive Attack, Billy Howerdel, and Nine Inch Nails had an affair, I like it. Then again, I like all three, so...yeah.
I love this album. I'll be listening to it on repeat for a while. At least until I've nailed the vocals on the songs I really want to learn. So, most of them. I love how his voice challenges me to improve my own. I appreciate how his words make me want to be a better person. I wish more people would listen to him and take his golden advice. Dis- and re-connect, people.