Artist: A Perfect Circle
Genre: Modern Rock
Weak and Powerless
The Nurse Who Loved Me
Maynard James Keenan – Vocals
Billy Howerdel – Guitars
Jeordie White – Bass
Josh Freese – Drums
Troy Van Leeuwen – Guitars
Billy Howerdel was originally a guitar tech for Tool. In 1996, during Tool’s Aenima tour, Billy gave Maynard his demo tape. Maynard liked what he heard and promised to work with him sometime in the future. But this did not happen till the year 2000. Maynard got together with Billy, caught hold of Josh Freese, who is famous for having worked with big names like Zappa, Guns n’ roses, Suicidal tendencies etc.. and Paz Lenchantin, who has now quit APC and joined Zwan. Together, they released “Mer de Noms”, meaning Sea of Names in 2000. The record was a great success, they followed it with a world tour, after which Maynard went back to Tool. 3 years later, Maynard and A Perfect Circle release their sophomore studio album called “The Thirteenth Step”.
Now comes the inevitable question; “How is Thirteenth Step different from Mer de Noms?”. Well, it is different in every way possible. To be perfectly honest, Mer de Noms had a lot more of Billy on it, while The Thirteenth Step is dominated by Maynard. The guitar work on the former is much better than on the latter. Actually that goes for Bass and Drums as well. But there is one thing which places this album higher on my list than the previous, and that is the feel of the album. Mer de Noms is a classic in its own right, but when it comes to emotional charge of the album, it doesn’t stand a chance before this. The album gives me Goosebumps. Absolutely chilling. For that reason alone, I like this album better than the 2000 release Mer de Noms, but that is just my opinion.
We all know the 12 steps involved in the drinking rehab programme. This album gets it title from there. This is the13th, non-existing step of the programme. And as you might have guessed, it is a concept album. Every song on this album can be viewed from the point of view of a person going through rehab. It is quite amazing how, Maynard, who never had such a problem in his life, based only on the experiences his friends have had, wrote these beautifully thought provoking lyrics about something he never really experienced. Great stuff.
The album kicks off with an epic called “The Package”. This song is brilliant in every which way. It starts of with what may be described as a tribal beat, overlaid by a mellow guitar tune. The whole songs got a great feel to it. Great lyrics on this song. The vocals are also amazing. The first half of the song has somber instrumentation, and then the song suddenly turns heavy. Great transition. Maynard’s vocals get aggressive. He delivers them with a lot of emotion. Billy does a great job on the guitars. Josh is great on the drums. The song ends with Maynard whispering “Mine...mine...take what’s mine”. On the whole, this is one of the best songs on the album.
The second song on the album is called “Weak and Powerless”, which also happens to be the first single off the album. A very good track. The guitar work is clean throughout, yet it has a very dark feel to it. Something not many bands can achieve. Maynard’s voice sounds kinda different on this, but still great. The lyrics are very clever, especially the bridge part. If you’ve seen the video of the song, you’ll understand how the band sees this song. Very interesting video. I bought this album based on this one song, hoping the rest of the album will be as good as this. But I was wrong. The rest of the album is actually better, well, most of it at least. Overall, a very very good song.
The third song on the album is probably one of the most unique songs I’ve heard in quite awhile. It’s called “The Noose”. The lyrics are exceptional. And the singing, phenomenal. The song starts with low bass, barely audible. With every change in the singing, a new layer of instruments is added to it and it keeps building up for the finale. The ending of the song is AMAZING. So much emotion carried in it. Most often, since the intro is so low, I turn the volume up, and it the end, with so many layers of instruments, it sounds very loud, but that’s the way it needs to be heard. Brilliant song, to say the least. Ending with the lines “With your halo slipping down, to choke you now”, this is the best song on the album, as far as I am concerned.
The Noose is followed by yet another great song called “Blue”. I love this song. Nice guitar work in the song. Maynard sounds great (I can’t stop myself from saying that again and again, sorry if it’s annoying). The chorus is addictive. It will make sure you sing along. With two layers of vocals (the second from Billy), it sounds great. The lyrics are great as usual. I love the line “Best to keep things in the shallow end, ‘cause I never quite learnt how to swim”. I only wish this song was a little longer. Still, a wonderful song.
The fifth track on the album is called “Vanishing”. It’s not your average song. Very strange. The songs got a very peculiar feel to it. The vocals, for the most part are whispered, the song being more about the instrumentation. But don’t expect any catchy riffs, because you’ll just be disappointed then. It’s all about the emotion, much like the rest of the album. There’s this very interesting line which reads “Like a thought brushing up against a sigh”. Lord, what imagery! This is a very good song, maybe not be a very listener-friendly song, but you’ll eventually like it.
The next song is called “A Stranger”. This song is the softest song on the album, but still nothing like 3 Libras off Mer de Noms. Maynard is better than usual on this song. The lyrics are just brilliant. “I listen to the whisper of your sweet insanity, while I formulate denials, of your effect on me”. It’s all acoustic song, with a bit of piano on it. Very good song. Maybe a little too soft for some, but I still love it.
The 7th song on the album shows a heavier side of the band. It’s called “The Outsider” and also happens to be the second single off the album. This song captures Billy’s talent more than any other song on the record. Very interesting guitar lines. The lyrics are really really good. Maynard sings in a more Tool like voice. The video for this song is a major put-off for me, even though it’s got hot chicks in bikinis (imagine). It has absolutely nothing to do with the song, it was just made so because Maynard starred in one of the episodes of “The Bikini Bandits”. This is the only thing I hate about this album. Ignore the video and this is a wonderful song.
The next song is called “Crimes”. It’s basically a filler. It has some cool guitar with Maynard whispering random numbers. The funny thing about this is, in the album sleeve notes, it says the whole band contributed to the lyrics of the song. Or maybe that was said because you can hear the band members talking in the background. In any case, not much to look for here.
Next comes the biggest gamble the band could’ve made. A cover of the Failure song “The Nurse Who Loved Me”. Most of the song is just strings, with a hint of guitar and bass. As crazy as it may all seem, this is one cover that is actually better than the original. Brilliant stuff. Maynard is great, again. On the whole, this is a key track on the album, and the band deserves some credit for taking such a big risk and making it work to their advantage.
The tenth track on the album is called “Pet”. A much heavier track, that lies in great contrast to the one preceding it. The guitar work on this song is great. Especially the post bridge part, played with heavy Wah. The lyrics are excellent. Maynard is brilliant, he’s got his son Devo, doing backing vocals on this song. The drumming on the song is also really good. It gels perfectly with the guitars. This song is not to be missed, great stuff.
The above song ends with the line “Go back to sleep”, and that is where the next track aptly titled “Lullaby” takes over. Maynard still continues to chant “go back to sleep”, while Jarboe hums a err...well…a lullaby. That’s the best I can describe it. This is also nothing more than a filler.
The 12th and final song the album is called “Gravity”. Brilliant song. Maynard is awesome on the song. The emotion he puts through is just amazing. The way the lyrics “I choose to live…” are recited leaves the listener totally drawn into the song and feeling exactly what Maynard is trying to convey. Lovely guitar work on this song. Josh is very good yet again. This song leaves you asking for more. At least, whenever I listen to it, I wish there was more after it. Excellent way to end the album.
If you haven’t understood yet, let me make it simpler for you. I love this album, and I think everyone should give it a listen. Because it’s definitely worth it. Happy listening.
Key Tracks: The Noose, The Package, Pet, The Outsider.
Rating: Five Stars