Release Year: 2004
Everyone gets excited when they’re favorite band announces a new album, but when it’s revealed it’s a cover album the mood changes. There’s nothing wrong with a good cover song, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an artist should release an entire LP dedicated to them, especially if most of them are bland and dull. This is the problem with A Perfect Circle’s third record. Released to coincide with the 2004 presidential election, it’s a collection of ten political covers and two original tracks. While the idea is interesting, the band doesn’t attack the songs with the same passion, fervor, and attitude you would hope they would.
There are so many ways A Perfect Circle could’ve approached these songs, yet they went the more subdued route. Many of the songs are muted and quiet, which wouldn’t be so bad if every track didn’t followed the same style. “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” features weak falsetto vocals and a light tinging guitar riff. It’s not terrible, but you definitely lose interest before the song is over. “What’s Going On?” follows a similar style in that it’s pretty quiet with some atmospheric music and it’s really dull. The original manages to be thoughtful while having a slinky groove. This one is just boring and forgettable.
If they’re not making the songs more quiet and slower than before, they’re making them sound completely different from the original. A good cover song differentiates from the original to make sure it’s not exactly the same, but there’s a point where you can’t even identify the song anymore. This is the case with “People Are People.” It begins with some light jingling followed by weird electrosynth that continues well into the song. It’s like it’s trying to get the new wave, mechanical vibe of the Depeche Mode version, but misses the mark completely. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s a point before the chorus where “la la la la” singing comes in, like it’s trying to mock the song. Even the format of the hook is changed and it messes with anyone who was hoping to sing along with this classic.
Aside from a few songs the rest of the album is pretty forgettable. “When the Levee Breaks” has a mellow vibe to it, but its length makes you lose interest pretty fast. “Freedom of Choice” finally shows a harder edge to the music, which you don’t expect from a Devo song, but it’s only decent. One of the best covers is John Lennon’s “Imagine.” What makes it so great is how the band brings out the dark quality of the track. Rather than sounding optimistic, Kennan sounds sinister and cynical as he sings “Imagine there’s no country/I wonder if you can.” Another great track is “Let’s Have a War,” which features an odd Tom Waits-esque vocal style that’s distracting, but the trilling riff and the sweet background vocals makes it a highlights. But the best track is the original “Counting Bodies Like Sheep,” which is a follow up to the band’s track “Pet.” Everything about the song is so fucking sinister. The music comes on heavy, hard, and pounding even before the synth kicks up. Kennan tries to sound reassuring as he sings “Step away from the window/and go/back to sleep,” but he ends up sounding devilish like he has dark intentions. The song keeps building tension all the way to the bridge where Kennan shouts over and over “Go to sleep!” By the end, everything clashes to create this chaotic noise and mood and caps off with an eerie as the song quietly finishes. Not only is the song good, it stands out the most from the entire LP.
While the idea of a politically themed cover album is an interesting one, especially considering when it came out, the result is quite boring. Most of the covers are either boring or so far from the original you can’t identify the song. It also seems kind of lazy of the band to hash out a whole bunch of covers rather than write their own politically conscious songs with similar themes. Whatever they would’ve come up with would’ve been a lot better than this album. There are a handful of great tracks, but it’s not worth sitting through the entire LP to hear them.