Thirteenth Step

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Thirteenth Step
A Perfect Circle-Thirteenth Step.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 16, 2003
RecordedJanuary - June 2003
StudioPerfect Circle Studios (North Hollywood, California)
A Perfect Circle chronology
Mer de Noms
Thirteenth Step
Singles from Thirteenth Step
  1. "Weak and Powerless"
    Released: August 5, 2003
  2. "The Outsider"
    Released: March 5, 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.[5] 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.


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.[6] 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.[6] 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".[6] 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.[6] The title "Vanishing" was a tongue in cheek allusion to the fact that the song itself had gone missing.[7]

Writing for the album started while Keenan was still touring with his other band, Tool, in support of their 2001 album Lateralus.[8] Howerdel would write most of the music, while Keenan would write most of the lyrics.[9] 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.[8] 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.[8] 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.[10]

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.[6] At times, this would cause a creative struggle between the two as well; since Keenan was involved with some of Howerdel's music writing this time around, he would sometimes give more input in the music, with the two sometimes wanting to move in opposite directions.[8] 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".[8] He instead pushed for a softer sound, focusing more on atmospherics and ambience.[10] Conversely, Howerdel preferred the heavier compositions written while waiting for Keenan to return from Tool.[11] White, relatively new to the band, often played the role of mediator between the two, being able to offer an outsider's perspective of the situation.[11]

Danny Lohner played a large part of the productions of the track "The Noose", whereas "The Package" was a full-band collaboration that started with Howerdel playing the song's basic guitar riff in front of everyone.[6]

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." [12]
Lyricist Maynard James Keenan on the album's concept.

Thirteenth Step is a concept album about the different aspects and perspectives of addiction, and the recovery from it.[13] The album's title itself is a reference to the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.[10] 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 have 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."[14]

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.[12] 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.[8]

"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.[15] 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".[15] "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.[16]

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.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
Allmusic4/5 stars[18]
Alternative Press5/5 stars[19]
Drowned in Sound(8/10)[20]
E! OnlineB+[17]
Entertainment Weekly3/4 stars[21]
Mojo7/10 stars[23]
Q6/10 stars[24]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[25]
Spin4/10 stars[3]

Media reception to Thirteenth Step was generally favorable; aggregating website Metacritic reported a rating of 74 percent based on 11 critical reviews.[26] 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."[18]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel except where noted.

1."The Package"7:40
2."Weak and Powerless"3:15
3."The Noose"4:53
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
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).



Year Chart Position
2003 The Billboard 200 2
Top Canadian Albums 1
Top Internet Albums 2
UK Albums Chart 37[27]
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


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Klosterman, Chuck (September 24, 2013). "A Perfect Circle, 'Thirteenth Step' (Virgin)". Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d e f "An Interview with Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle - April 14th, 20…". September 10, 2012. Archived from the original on September 10, 2012.
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c d e f " A Perfect Circle: The Pain Of Perfection". Archived from the original on June 15, 2013.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  9. ^ Thirteenth Step album liner notes
  10. ^ a b c "Thirteenth Step - A Perfect Circle - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic".
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ a b " Maynard James Keenan: Not Yet A Legend, Not Yet Dead". June 15, 2013. Archived from the original on June 15, 2013.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Amotion, A Perfect Circle, DVD commentary
  15. ^ a b Blabbermouth (November 28, 2007). "A PERFECT CIRCLE Guitarist To Release ASHES DIVIDE Debut In March".
  16. ^ Blabbermouth (April 18, 2006). "A PERFECT CIRCLE: 'Thirteenth Step' Certified Platinum".
  17. ^ a b "Thirteenth Step by A Perfect Circle". Metacritic. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  18. ^ a b allmusic
  19. ^ Alternative Press, November 2003 issue, p. 110
  20. ^ Cowen, Nick. "Album review Thirteenth Step". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  21. ^ Thirteenth Step review. Entertainment Weekly, September 19, 2003 issue, p. 86
  22. ^ Marisa, Bardach. "Album review Thirteenth Step". Kludge. Archived from the original on January 16, 2004. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  23. ^ Mojo, November 2003 issue, p. 132
  24. ^ Q magazine, November 2003, p. 105
  25. ^ Robert Cherry (October 2, 2003). "Review of Thirteenth Step". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on January 22, 2005. Retrieved January 22, 2005.
  26. ^ Reviews for Thirteenth Step by A Perfect Circle - Metacritic
  27. ^ "Official Charts Company A Perfect Circle Thirteenth Step". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 4, 2011.

External links[edit]

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