BIOGRAPHY The most obvious criticism of A Perfect Circle is that they're not Tool. Anyone who comes to this Maynard James Keenan side project looking for a booster shot of venom to tide them over until the next Tool album will begin to feel the hot flashes and nausea of withdrawal almost immediately. Not surprisingly, "Judith," the most Tool-sounding song on Mer de Noms, was also the first to be promoted, but don't be misled -- A Perfect Circle are much closer in sensibility to the Smashing Pumpkins than Tool. Songs such as "The Hollow" and "Thinking of You" show Keenan to be capable of sensitivity, longing, even instances of vulnerability. His sinuous voice still sneers on occasion, but is more inclined to coil gently or soar ecstatically. On "Orestes" he sounds like a man liberated, however briefly, from a defeated world. Even without the presence of strings (!) and the gorgeous textures achieved by vocal overdubbing, there's something phenomenal happening here that fans won't find on a Tool album. This is someone's attempt to rescue a little sweetness and light from an encroaching darkness -- and it's an attempt that succeeds over and over again. Some of their influences include Nine Inch Nails, Jane's Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins and Tool.