Performer: A Perfect Circle
Songwriters: Billy Howerdel, Maynard James Keenan
Original Release: Mer de Noms
Definitive Version: none
I’m in the middle of a huge Porcupine Tree run. I’ve been listening to Atlanta, the live album from the band’s Fear of a Blank Planet tour, and I would highly recommend it as the place to start if you aren’t a fan and you want to check them out. If I were to start this here list this September instead of in September 2011, I would have at least five more Porcupine Tree songs on it than I do.
When I first listened to it last September, Atlanta didn’t make much of an impression on me. Of course, it wasn’t the best situation: flying to Italy overnight on a cramped airplane while slipping in and out of sleep. I laid aside the album for a few months, concentrating on the list and Fear itself. I started playing it again about a month ago, and now I can’t get Atlanta off my playlist.
As I’ve mentioned, that’s typical for me. I might have it hook me right away, but it takes a few listens before I really fall in love with a song. This song is one of the exceptions. I loved it so much on first listen, I immediately played it again before going through the rest of Mer de Noms.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was in a far better mindset for love at first listen. By 2000, my love of Tool (aka the American Porcupine Tree) was well-established, and I couldn’t wait to hear something new from even an offshoot band. As I mentioned, I bought Mer de Noms as soon as it came out and debuted it on the plane to Alaska.
When Debbie and I went to Juneau to visit her cousin, Janice, that year, we flew to Seattle and then transferred to Alaska Air for the final leg. I had Mer de Noms on as the clouds lifted and we flew over the Alaskan coast with snow-capped peaks guiding the way. It was a spectacular view and set the tone for the rest of the week.
But the landing was even more spectacular, and a little scary if you’re not big on flying, like I am. For a while, while you descend, you’re in between mountains with nothing but the Gastineau Channel below you. It’s unsettling; the mountains seem really close. Finally the land opens up to show a large valley and the airport below. I didn’t have my Discman on during the landing, of course, but it’s what I think of when I hear this song.
Janice met us at the gate—this was before 9/11 when we were more trusting and allowed people to do such things—wearing shorts. Really? I hadn’t packed for warm weather. It turns out the day we arrived was the warmest day—66 degrees—but it felt warmer than that. Janice took us to her home, not far from the airport, and as soon as we dropped off our luggage, we headed to the Mendenhall Glacier, which literally was just up the road from her house.
I had been to Glacier National Park, as I noted, but until I saw the Mendenhall Glacier, I can’t say I really saw an honest-to-goodness glacier until we arrived in Juneau. It was imposing and alive. Mendenhall Lake was littered with icebergs, also something I’d never seen before. The Alaska trip was off to a good start.
Debbie fished out a small iceberg that was near the shore. It was the size of her head, crystal clear and heavy. Janice said that would make for some pretty good drinks. I bet it would. Too bad I was only a wine-and-beer guy at the time.