In the spring of 2001, I heard this song on the radio. I was completely blown away, but didn’t have a clue who did it. If I was familiar with Tool at the time, I surely would’ve recognized the powerful voice that is Maynard James Keenan, who formed A Perfect Circle with guitar tech Billy Howerdel in 1999. I eventually heard the song again, and remembered enough of the lyrics to Google it. The song turned out to be “3 Libras”, and despite knowing nothing about Tool or APC, I rushed out to buy the album, titled “Mer de Noms”, that very day.
As it turned out, I also knew another song on the album, called “Judith”. It received a lot of airplay a year prior to that, but I never knew who it was. Anyway, the album was rather underwhelming to me upon the first couple listens, with the exception of the aforementioned two songs. But after more and more spins, “Mer de Noms” became one of my favorite albums of all time. And it still is to this day. It also got me interested in Tool, which is certainly a good thing.
You’ll notice that “Mer de Noms” (translated as “Sea of Names”) contains a lot of Biblical references in the song titles and lyrics. The slow, brooding “Magdalena” is one of them, in which Maynard longs for “one taste of you, my black madonna”. The first single, “Judith”, is a heavy, powerful tirade against blind faith. Unlike other crappy anti-religion songs, this is actually thought provoking and inspiring.
“3 Libras”, the song that got me into the band in the first place, is flat out gorgeous. It begins with a beautifully orchestrated string intro, then goes from mid-tempo ballad to a heavy, emotional finale in which Maynard sings, “You don’t see me at all”, a totally relatable sentiment for anyone who has felt overlooked or unnoticed.
“Brena” and “Orestes” are the most subdued affairs on the album, with the former being a beautiful love ballad, while still retaining the haunting feel of the album. The latter is my favorite song on here, another one that starts slow and builds up to a spine chilling finale that cements Maynard’s position as the best rock vocalist in the game.
Other standouts include:
The creepy industrial-atmospheric assault, “Rose”, which culminates with elegant strings.
The raucous “Thomas”
“Sleeping Beauty”, in which Maynard puts a slight twist on the classic fairytale of the same name.
And finally, the aggro-funk of “Thinking Of You”.
The album closes with “Over”, a brief elegy featuring only sparse instrumentation.
If you’re a fan of alternative or modern rock in general, don’t pass up “Mer de Noms”. Unlike a lot of crap that gets airplay on the radio, A Perfect Circle never sacrifices their sense of adventure and creativity, yet they can still churn out catchy, radio friendly tunes like “Judith” and “The Outsider” (the latter of which is from their most recent album, “Thirteenth Step”). “Mer de Noms” is bold, dark, haunting, and beautiful – never boring.
Best Songs: Orestes, 3 Libras, Thomas, Sleeping Beauty.