Thirteenth Step

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Thirteenth Step
Studio album by A Perfect Circle
Released September 16, 2003
Recorded Perfect Circle Studios, North Hollywood, California
January 2003 - June 2003
Genre Alternative rock, alternative metal
Length 50:36
Label Virgin
Producer Billy Howerdel
Maynard James Keenan (Executive)
Danny Lohner (Tracks 3, 6, 9, 10)
A Perfect Circle chronology
Mer de Noms
(2000)
Thirteenth Step
(2003)
eMOTIVe
(2004)
Singles from Thirteenth Step
  1. "Weak and Powerless"
    Released: December 3, 2003
  2. "The Outsider"
    Released: 2004
  3. "Blue"
    Released: July 27, 2004

Thirteenth Step is the second studio album by American rock band A Perfect Circle, released on September 16, 2003. The album sold well, charting at the number 2 position on the Billboard 200 in its premiere week, selling over 231,000 copies and staying on the charts for 78 weeks.[1] The album went on to be certified as gold on November 4, 2003 and as platinum on March 24, 2006 by the RIAA. Three singles were released from the album, "Weak and Powerless", which topped both the Mainstream Rock Tracks and Modern Rock Tracks, followed by "The Outsider" and "Blue", which also charted on the respective charts.

Background[edit]

Writing and recording[edit]

The band's writing process was very different from the band's first album, Mer de Noms. With the first album, a majority of the album had been already written and recorded over a long period of time by guitarist Billy Howerdel, before a band had even been assembled.[2] He had recorded it with a female vocalist in mind, but upon Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan hearing it and offering to sing for the material, the content was then quickly finalized upon adding Keenan's vocals and re-recording the drums with band member Josh Freese.[2] With beginning the second album, the band found themselves starting fresh, without any material to start with, with the exception of the track "Vanishing", which originally was intended to be on the band's first album, but Howerdel could not find the song file in the studio, having accidentally named it "test".[2] Upon finally recovering the track in 2001, it was only slightly altered for its final release, to better match the eventual sound of Thirteenth Step.[2]

Writing for the album started while Keenan was still touring with his other band, Tool, in support of their 2001 album Lateralus.[3] Howerdel would write most of the music, while Keenan would write most of the lyrics.[4] As such, Howerdel would send work in progress instrumental he would create, and Keenan would write lyrics in between shows, a process they found to be efficient, but ultimately more difficult to balance than they initially expected.[3] Keenan's work with Tool was not the only thing delaying work on the album, as progress was also hampered by other lineup changes, including guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen leaving to be a member of Queens of the Stone Age, and bassist Paz Lenchantin leaving to be a member of Zwan, leading to their contributions to the album being limited to only a few tracks.[5] Lenchantin would be replaced by Marilyn Manson bassist Jeordie White, while Van Leeuwen would be replaced by Danny Lohner on the album and later James Iha for touring purposes, as Iha did not actually perform on the album.[6]

Once touring for Tool was over with, Keenan returned to the studio to work in person with the rest of the band on the album. The sessions were, as such, marked with far more collaboration, especially between Howerdel and Keenan, now that Howerdel knew who his vocalist was, and what types of ideas he'd support.[2] At times, this would cause a creative struggle between to two as well; since Keenan was involved with some of Howerdel music writing this time around, he would sometimes give more input in the music, with the two sometimes wanting to move in opposite directions.[3] Keenan, in particular, wanted to move away from the general hard rock sound of Mer de Noms, feeling that taking that approach again would be "redundant".[7] He instead pushed for a softer sound, focusing more on atmospherics and ambience.[6]

Danny Lohner played a large part of the productions of the track "The Noose", where as "The Package" was a full-band collaboration that started with Howerdel playing the song's basic guitar riff in front of everyone.[2]

Concept and themes[edit]

I don't think the album is specifically for people who are going through recovery, although that metaphor is absolutely present. Many of the songs are sung from the perspectives of recovery: from the perspective of a person who is in denial about a loved one, and from the drug perspective itself — the perspective of a person who is starting to realize that there is an issue, and of a person who is ready to deal with it.[8] Lyricist Maynard James Keenan on the album's concept.

The Thirteenth Step is a concept album about the different aspects and perspectives of addiction, and the recovery from it. The album's title itself is a reference to the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.[6] Lead vocalist and primary lyricist of the band Maynard James Keenan explained the concept on the band's DVD Amotion, stating:

"The songs on Thirteenth Step for the most part are about the various processes of addiction, behavioral addictions, chemical addictions, and each song is kind of sung from a different perspective. I've a lot of friends who've gone through a lot of these situations. Some of the songs are sung from the perspective of the actual drug, from the perspective of someone who has realized that they have an issue or a problem, also from the perspective of a person who realizes that if they don't do something they're going to die, a song from the perspective of a person who is in denial about a loved one, dying right before their eyes. And in the case of "The Outsider", it's sung from the perspective of a person who doesn't understand at all what their friend is going through, what their loved one is going through, and they think that it's more like a sprained ankle; they can just kind of walk it off."[9]

Keenan, not having struggled with addiction first-hand, drew from experiencing it happen to others around him, such as Layne Staley, the lead singer of Alice in Chains, who died in 2002 due to drug addiction.[8] The song "The Package" is from the perspective of an addict, desperate for more, while "Blue" is from the perspective of someone having a difficult time dealing with the aftermath of an overdose.[10]

"The Nurse Who Loved Me" is a cover of the song by Failure, originally featured on the 1996 album Fantastic Planet.

Release and promotion[edit]

The album was released on September 16, 2003, and debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 charts, with 231,000 copies sold.[11] Three singles were released from the album, "Weak and Powerless", which topped both the Mainstream Rock Tracks and Modern Rock Tracks, "The Outsider", and "Blue.[11] "Weak and Powerless" and "The Outsider" managed to crossover into mainstream pop radio formats as well, with the two charting at number 61 and 79 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The album was certified platinum by the RIAA in early 2006.[12]

The band toured extensively for the rest of 2003 and in early 2004 in support of the album. Just prior to the 2004 Presidential Election, the band released Emotive, a collection of political war cover songs, which contained "Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums", which was a reinterpretation of the track "Pet", and a remix album titled Amotion, which contained remixed versions of the tracks across their three albums, including the three singles from Thirteenth Step.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 74/100[13]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[14]
Drowned in Sound (8/10)[15]
E! Online B+[13]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[16]
Alternative Press 5/5 stars[17]
Entertainment Weekly 3/4 stars[18]
Mojo 7/10 stars[19]
Q 6/10 stars[20]
Spin 4/10 stars[21]
Launch 8/10 stars[13]

Media reception to Thirteenth Step was generally favorable; aggregating website Metacritic reported a rating of 74 percent based on 11 critical reviews.[22] Allmusic strongly praised the album for having "the sound of a musical and lyrical maturity that normally doesn't occur until a band's third or fourth albums", and concluded that "Lyrically, musically, sonically, the Thirteenth Step is proof positive that mainstream rock has plenty of life and vision left in it."[6]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel except where noted. 

CD
No. Title Length
1. "The Package"   7:40
2. "Weak and Powerless"   3:15
3. "The Noose"   4:53
4. "Blue"   4:13
5. "Vanishing"   4:51
6. "A Stranger"   3:12
7. "The Outsider"   4:06
8. "Crimes" (Howerdel/Keenan/Freese/White) 2:34
9. "The Nurse Who Loved Me" (Greg Edwards/Ken Andrews, Failure cover) 4:04
10. "Pet"   4:34
11. "Lullaby"   2:01
12. "Gravity" (Howerdel/Keenan/Freese/Van Leeuwen/Lenchantin) 5:08

The Japanese version of Thirteenth Step includes an exclusive extended version of "The Package" (9:23).

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Album
Year Chart Position
2003 The Billboard 200 2
Top Canadian Albums 1
Top Internet Albums 2
UK Albums Chart 37[23]
Singles
Year Single Chart Position
2003 "Weak and Powerless" The Billboard Hot 100 61
Mainstream Rock Tracks 1
Modern Rock Tracks 1
2004 "The Outsider" The Billboard Hot 100 79
Mainstream Rock Tracks 3
Modern Rock Tracks 5
"Blue" Mainstream Rock Tracks 19
Modern Rock Tracks 21

References[edit]

  1. ^ Billboard.com
  2. ^ a b c d e f http://www.lithiummagazine.com/interview-billy-howerdel-perfect-circle-april-14th-2011
  3. ^ a b c http://www.mtv.com/bands/a/a_perfect_circle/news_feature_030929/index2.jhtml
  4. ^ Thirteenth Step album liner notes
  5. ^ http://www.mtv.com/bands/a/a_perfect_circle/news_feature_030929/index3.jhtml
  6. ^ a b c d http://www.allmusic.com/album/thirteenth-step-mw0000692011
  7. ^ http://www.mtv.com/bands/a/a_perfect_circle/news_feature_030929/index2.jhtml#
  8. ^ a b http://www.mtv.com/bands/a/a_perfect_circle/news_feature_040122/
  9. ^ Amotion, A Perfect Circle, DVD commentary
  10. ^ http://www.mtv.com/bands/a/a_perfect_circle/news_feature_030929/
  11. ^ a b http://www.blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=85745
  12. ^ http://www.blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=51138
  13. ^ a b c http://www.metacritic.com/music/thirteenth-step/a-perfect-circle/critic-reviews
  14. ^ Jurek, Thom. Album review Thirteenth Step at AllMusic. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  15. ^ Cowen, Nick. "Album review Thirteenth Step". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved September 4, 2011. 
  16. ^ http://www.rollingstone.com/allaccess/search
  17. ^ Alternative Press, November 2003 issue, p. 110
  18. ^ Entertainment Weekly, September 19, 2003 issue, p. 86
  19. ^ Mojo, November 2003 issue, p. 132
  20. ^ Q magazine, November 2003, p. 105
  21. ^ http://www.spin.com/#reviews/perfect-circle-thirteenth-step-virgin/
  22. ^ http://www.metacritic.com/music/thirteenth-step/a-perfect-circle
  23. ^ "UK chart history A Perfect Circle Thirteenth Step". www.chartstats.com. Archived from the original on July 23, 2012. Retrieved September 4, 2011. 

External links[edit]

"Worldwide chart info A Perfect Circle Thirteenth Step". www.ultratop.be. Retrieved September 4, 2011.