When the news first broke that Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle/Ashes Divide was going to put out a solo album under his name, I became very intrigued. While reading about the making of the album, there was a quote of Billy’s that really stood out to me, “”This is me stepping back into my early teen self and making the record I would’ve made if I had the means and the knowledge when I first picked up a guitar — just in 2022.” I couldn’t love that statement more. I love that he went back to the well of what first really got his passion of music going and created an album that pays homage to those musical influences and inspirations but this record is one that can stand on it’s own during a resurgence of that sound.
What Normal Was is ten songs of goth tinged, dark pop, with melancholic tendencies and a sense of ambience that is both haunting and beautiful. Digging into his love for bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode and Siouxie and the Banshee’s, you can hear those bands in certain moments wheteher it’s a synth, vocal melody, bass line, guitar part or even a drum beat. But this isn’t a “copy” of those bands. Instead this is Billy making the album that he grew up wanting to make. I have a strange thing about wanting to go track by track as I feel like it gives the listener a preconceived notion but I do want to highlight a couple tracks. Opener “Selfish Heart” is one hell of a track to kick off the record. The vocal delivery on this song is superb. As the album continues tracks like “Free and Weightless,” “Ani,” “Beautiful Mistake,” “Poison Flowers,” and “Bring Honor Back Home” have all been standouts each time I listen. Closing song “Stars” is quite the contemplative track and one that gives the album an open ending to continue on this path at a later date.
What Normal Was is the type of album in 2022 that is not only needed but it’s a teaching tool for all these younger bands and “kids” who don’t quite understand how to make this type of music. The homage portion of the album and the desire to create something that you’ve always dreamed of makes this album work. It’s not just Billy stepping out of the shadow of Maynard and A Perfect Circle, this is Billy discovering who he is as a musician and songwriter. What Normal Was is a record that will grow on you after a few listens. There’s even a part of it that will make you want to seek out the bands and albums that helped to inspire this record. Personally, I can’t wait to hear what Billy Howerdel does next in his musical evolution.
Overall Rating: 9/10
Free And Weightless:
The Same Again: