Album Review: Mer De Noms

A Perfect Circle’s debut album, Mer De Noms, took me far too long to purchase. I have always like them and Tool, the front-man Maynard James Keenan’s other band. Keenan will always be an iconic figure in the  rock industry. His first band, Tool, helped pioneer the grunge rock scene in the early 90’s. His next group, A Perfect Circle, provided a much more intelligent breed of music for the hard rock scene in the early 2000’s. If you’re not familiar with Maynard James Keenan, here’s a interview that gives a quick overview of him and his career (link). He’s always been a person of interest to me. He has a stage presence unlike anyone I’ve ever seen. This carries over into his interviews as well. A figure in music I would most closely compare him to would be Ariel Pink. Both appear to not have a whole lot in common with the average person but have a lot of interesting things to say. Onto the review…

1. The Hollow (8/10)-It gets the album going in the right direction. You get some excellent, pure sounding guitars provided by lead guitarist Billy Howerdel. Howerdel is also another figure worth looking into. His side project, Ashes Divide, has produced some very solid tracks. Keenan’s vocals are showcased rather well in this song. I looked at the lyrics and can’t really tell what this song’s message is. Vivid lyrics generally allow for more enjoyable listening, however. Sit back and enjoy the song for what it is, especially the best sequence that starts @ 1:33 and goes until the conclusion.

2. Magdalena (9.5/10)-My personal favorite off the album. It’s one of many of Keenan and Howerdel’s tracks that show off their ability to modify tone and take a song in a new direction. The song gets off to a great start with a  slow build-up and darker sounding intro. Then it gives you some whaling guitars that take place during the bridge to the chorus (@1:15). It combines very nicely with Keenan’s angst driven vocals. This part of the song is the highlight for me. There’s also a really good guitar solo @ 2:12 that transitions into the new tone that takes over for the reminder of the song. Once again, it’s Keenan’s vocals that stick out to me. Specifically, during the closing chorus when he screams out “One taste of you my Magdalena!” Check it out

3. Rose (6.5)-Not a bad song, kind of a softer, slower ballad. It’s unlike a lot of their other work. I do enjoy the fuzzy guitars alternating with the acoustic ones throughout the song (@0:49). What hurt my rating of the song was the long violin portion that goes on for the last 30 seconds or so.

4. Judith (9.5/10) This has been arguably A Perfect Circle’s greatest hit. Rightfully so, it is a masterpiece.The song is produced so well and Howerdel’s talent as a lead guitarist is displayed eminently here. The concluding part of the song is one of the most strong and meaningful endings that I have ever heard (starts beginning with the 2nd chorus and gets even better @3:12)   It contains some slightly controversial lyrics, which is my only knock on the song. I’m all for the group expressing their opinions on religion and what not; “Fuck your God” seems excessive. If you know that back-story on the message to this song, you see where Keenan is coming from.  It’s non-stop musical greatness right from the beginning and never lets up.

5. Orestes (4.5/10)-A little too slow and anti-climatic for my tastes. Not a whole lot happens during this song, other than one possibly noteworthy guitar solo, mainly a filler.

6. 3 Libras (5/10)-Another bland, and rather disappointing offering. This song has a little more going for it than “Orestes” did. There is some noteworthy guitar and vocals in the chorus but definitely not up to the level of tracks 1, 2, or 4, on the album. At this point, I’m wondering if the rest of the album is going to go the way of the first four songs, which were spectacular, or if there is a big drop-off

7. Sleeping Beauty (4.5/10) Ugh! It doesn’t get much better unfortunately. A much more sad retelling of a person’s inability to aid his significant other sleeping habits. Definitely a downer and a song that has me reaching for the skip button.

8. Thomas (5.5/10)-Decent, gritty intro. Reminded me of Soundgarden’s “Outsthined.” The comparison ends there. The song is progressive and has glimmers of the talent that A Perfect Circle possess but they never really get it firing on all cylinders in this one. The lyrics translate into what I believe could serve as a follow-up to the previous song. Keenan’s lyrics appear to speak of someone seeking forgiveness.

9. Renholder (NA)-Nothing to see here, folks. Just a sitar sounding instrument and some indiscernible Maynard lyrics.

10. Thinking of You (4.5/10)-Gets off to a very un-Keenan like pop-sounding into. It almost like they were trying to merge their style with something else which results in a Fiona Apple sounding conglomeration. It’s not that bad of a song, really, it’s complex if nothing else. It’s not what I come to expect when I listen to these guys, though. There’s one part that’s not too bad where Keenan repeats the title of the song many times and it gets followed by one final rendition of the chorus (@3:56). There’s something missing in that chorus that keeps this from being a good song.

11. Brena(3/10)-Simple, minimalistic intro kicks this track off. Doesn’t get really amount to much after that. A little too whiny and boring for me. I would say it’s the weakest song on the album

12. Over (3/10)-Not much to this closing track. Almost a novelty track that it to serve as a curtain call for the album.

As you may be able to tell, I was disappointed by this album, overall. I had heard “Judith” and some other tracks from their second album, Thirteenth Step, that I really liked many times. I figured that their debut album would contain many all-around good songs. What I got instead was 3 awesome songs amongst many others that didn’t really measure up. I don’t regret buying the album and I would recommend you give it a try yourself if you like the songs you heard on this post. Keenan also has another project called Puscifer that is worth checking out. Well I’m out.  Until next time, stay off the FM wavelengths!