This morning I woke up with a part of a song in my head and it took me a minute to realize what it was and then once it hit, I knew what I was going to write about today. The song I had in my head was “3 Libras” by A Perfect Circle. To this day, this song is still one of my favorites and when it gets to that part of the album it gives me chills. One of my favorite performances of “3 Libras” actually comes from their appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno (that long ago). This one is a stand out not just for how well they rocked the song but, having Paz Lenchantin play violin throughout the song and having one of my all time favorite musicians, Danny Lohner join them on bass to round it out made it that much more memorable. Revisit this gem of a performance with me!
A Perfect Circle- 3 Libras (Live on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno):
There is something to be said about putting certain bands together on tour. When you put the right bands together, the end result tends to be something that leaves those in attendance in a state of WOW and inspired. Well that happened with this tour having VOWWS as the opener for Billy Howerdel’s solo album tour behind his new album What Normal Was. The combination of VOWWS and Billy Howerdel is a perfect match. The way their sounds play off each other and sets the tone for the other is pretty special.
VOWWS is one of my favorite synth driven bands. Ever since I heard them a couple years back I’ve been hooked. They have this distinctive sound to them that is part post-punk, part synth driven, and I’d even put in a little dreamgaze in there as well. Put that all together and you’ve got a recipe for a band that delivers great songs but a vibe that really sets the night on fire. The fact that they are a two piece band makes it all the more interesting. Being able to deliver the sheer force and magnitude they do is something a lot of bands in their genre could learn from. Having VOWWS open for what Billy’s solo album is was the perfect choice. I’m very intrigued to see where VOWWS goes next and what’s in store for them.
The main event for the night was Billy Howerdel. Being a fan of his work in A Perfect Circle and Ashes Divide made this a very exciting night. His new solo album, What Normal Was, is an album I’m hooked on. It’s got this very cool Depeche Mode/New Wave vibe to it but not in a way that it seems contrived but instead inspired. Listening to the album and reading about the mindset of where Billy was at the time makes this album even more special as it’s the album he truly wanted to make. The band he assembled for these shows is superb. Plus having the one and only Danny Lohner out there on stage playing guitar just warms my heart even more. Danny if you don’t know worked with Billy on his new solo album but also in Ashes Divide and in A Perfect Circle. As Billy’s set ripped through his new album, I couldn’t help but notice how these songs translate from album to live and the way that you get a different feeling from those songs. For example a songs like “Ani” “Follower” and “Selfish Heart” had a bit of a heavier delivery than the album and it made it more impactful. Other tracks like “Beautiful Mistake,” “Bring Honor Back Home” “Poison Flowers” and “Free and Weightless” were others that really stood out during the set. Also the addition of the Ashes Divide song “Forever Can Be” was a nice surprise and sounded great with this arrangement. You could tell from watching each member on stage that this was fun and exciting for them. Billy and the band sounded just as good as the album if not better live.
Seeing a show like this that leaves your inspired is a wonderful feeling. And then when you add bands and that really deliver the goods but also believe in what they are doing is contagious. The pairing of VOWWS and Billy Howerdel is/was a match made in musical bliss. I walked out of that show feeling glad I went and now I want more. It was a truly great evening, the bands played great, the people in attendance were all into it, and the other little surprises along the way just made it a perfect Sunday night for a show.
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.
Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle/Ashes Divide is preparing to release his debut “solo” album, What Normal Was on June 10. Ahead of the release, Billy will be releasing a new song each week until the album is released. Already “Poison Flowers” and “Free and Weightless” have been released (and they are pretty damn good songs). Now, we have the third song to be released “Beautiful Mistake.” Speaking on the song “We’re often too hard on ourselves,” says Howerdel in reference to the theme behind the song. “The Japanese philosophy Kintsugi, the Appreciation of Imperfection, inspired a new way for me to reflect on mistakes. Forgiving others can often be easier than forgiving ourselves.” This song is one of my favorites on the record. It’s got a very moody vibe that inhabits the best of the 80’s new wave era. Wait till you hear the whole record and in sequence!!!
Billy Howerdel best known for his work in A Perfect Circle is gearing up to drop his debut solo album, What Normal Was on June 10. Now, you might think “solo album?” wasn’t Ashes Divide his solo project? Well yes and no. This album was originally started as a follow up to the first Ashes Divide album but as time progressed and the songs began to continuously take shape, it just didn’t work in the realm that is/was Ashes Divide. This album is shaped quite differently. Billy mentioned about this album “This is me stepping back into my early teen self and making the record I would have made if I had the means and the knowledge when I first picked up a guitar—just in 2022. It’s that moment as a kid when you hear a record, close your eyes, and go somewhere else. That was the time I found my lane, so to speak. During the making of this album, a global pandemic’s chaos had a silver lining. It gave me time to tighten the songs into the place I’d hoped they could be. When I look back, I don’t think I’d change anything about it.” With that in mind, these songs pay homage and hark back to a time when music was making a huge impression on the life of Billy Howerdel.
Back in the year 2000 (how fitting for this since Conan used to have a segment on his show about “The Year 2000”), while A Perfect Circle was supporting the release of their amazing debut album, Mer De Noms, and while on tour with Nine Inch Nails, they made a stop to perform “Judith” on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. This performance is absolutely killer. Josh Freese is a beast behind the kit and was such an integral part of this band. It’s too bad he wasn’t involved in their recent return along with Paz Lenchantin on bass and Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar. Either way, enjoy this gem!
A Perfect Circle- Judith on Late Night with Conan O’Brien:
Way back when A Perfect Circle released their covers album eMOTIVE, there was an edition that also included an additional disc entitled aMOTION. This disc was all remixed version of their songs. There has always been one that has stood out to me over the years and that is the Tilling My Grave mix of “Weak and Powerless.” This version was remixed by Danny Lohner (former Nine Inch Nails memeber and for a time was a part of A Perfect Circle during the Thirteenth Step era) and it was also featured on the soundtrack for the first Underworld movie. Anyways, this version always seemed to have more “balls” to it and that gave it a much “heavier” vibe. Another interesting note is that this version features work by Wes Borland and Josh Eustis.
A Perfect Circle- Weak and Powerless (Tilling My Grave: Renholder Mix):
A Perfect Circle- Weak and Powerless (Album Version):
It’s been 15 years since A Perfect Circle has released an album of new original material. I don’t count their covers/remix album. That was absolutely unnecessary to even be released in the first place (but that’s for another day and debate). Enter 2018 and the release of Eat The Elephant. Despite being back in a live setting for one off shows since 2010, the groundwork for this album only started to come to fruition a couple years back. This project has always been mainly Maynard and Billy with the occasional input from other members of the band way back when (mainly Josh Freese). This new one is purely Billy and Maynard with the help of producer David Sardy (Far, Oasis and so many other bands he’s worked with). The sad part is the end result of their work.
This is not the A Perfect Circle you enjoyed when they first came out with Mer De Noms or The Thirteenth Step. What you have instead is a strange grandiose album that is at times pretentious and seems like one giant inside joke. The album’s lyrical content is very topical to the times we live in giving the album a very NOW feel. Musically though gone are the riffs and drums which are replaced with dramatic layers upon layers of keys and electronic elements. The only song on the album with that similar “classic” is “The Doomed” and even that song is very flat in terms of dynamics. That’s not to say that there aren’t moments throughout the rest of the album that have a presensce but that mainly comes from Maynard’s lyrics and delivery. Songs like “TalkTalk,” “Feathers” and “Hourglass” certainly have spots that shine. One song you might recognize a bit is “By and Down The River” which was released a few years back on a sort of best of/live album. The song has been reworked a bit but it’s still that song you heard. “Disillusioned” has a very lullaby feel. Actually the majority of the album feels like one big lullaby. The song “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish” sounds like it could be on a Coldplay or Imagine Dragons album. I could go on and on about this album but I’m not going to.
Needless to say as a fan of the band, this is a let down. After 15 years without new music from A Perfect Circle and this being the end result is not worth it. Something else that the album lacks is the performances musically. Newer members Jeff Friedl and Matt McJunkins, while they are solid musicians they just lack the “feel” and “vibe” that made A Perfect Circle so impactful. This doesn’t feel like an A Perfect Circle album after listening to it a few times. Some of you out there might really love this new side of the band, which is perfectly fine. There are also those out there that will just eat up what ever Maynard serves and hold it as gospel. Put it this way, this album isn’t for everyone. Instead I’ll wait patiently for the new Tool album, which after almost 13 years, better not be a let down like this is.
A Perfect Circle have released a new song “The Doomed” from their highly anticipated 2018 full-length album. It’s been 14 years since A Perfect Circle released anything new, so this is a very welcoming treat. This is a different approach for the band especially because they have new members in the band and that it’s been so long since we last heard anything new from them.
Check out the song and let me know what you think.
Since the announcement that A Perfect Circle will be returning, I thought making an ultimate set list for them is very appropriate.
I’m curious to see what your ultimate/dream set list would be for A Perfect Circle.
As usual here are the rules:
Rule 1: What line up of the band would it be
Rule 2: Where would you want to see the show
Rule 3: maximum 25 songs
Lineup: Maynard James Keenan, Billy Howerdel, Josh Freese, Danny Lohner, Troy Van Leeuwen, and Paz Lenchantin
Venue: Fonda Theatre- Los Angeles, CA
01) The Hollow
02) The Outsider
07) Sleeping Beauty
08) Weak and Powerless
09) By and Down
10) The Package
13) Thinking of You
16) The Noose
17) 3 Libras