This Puscifer article was written by Kevin Browne, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse. Header image by Ethan Miller
When a musical behemoth like Tool comes along and blots out the sun, you have to work damn hard not to live in its shadow. Maynard James Keenan’s side project Puscifer is in just such a predicament and is working diligently to take that brave step into the limelight. After hearing their latest release ‘Money Shot’, you can be sure it’s the beginning of just that.
Often unfairly over-looked as Tool’s less popular little brother or a sugar-coated parody of Nine Inch Nails, Puscifer was always going to be up against it. Previous albums like ‘V is for Vagina’ with its strong hip-hop influences and its farcical lyrics did the band no favours. The subject matter had suddenly turned from the macabre and yet eloquent lyrical imagery of tracks like ‘Prison Sex,’ to big booties and donkey punches. Long time fans of Tool and A Perfect Circle were quick to disregard Puscifer.
Becoming acutely aware of this, Maynard seems to have incorporated many of the hallmarks of his previous projects into ‘Money Shot’. Murky sounding guitars and tortured lyrics are back once again, but the album remains true to the Puscifer ideal of differentiation.
The track ‘Agostina’ tells the story of a delicate sexual encounter through space age metaphors. Standing as one of the band’s strongest tracks it contains a slothful, hypnotic drum beat and just the right mix of twinkling synthesizers and both electric and acoustic guitars. This is a track clearly aimed at appealing to members of every Maynard camp.
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We see a resurgence of another Maynard trademark with his shaman-like chanting on ‘Grand Canyon’. The tribal drumming and the presence of female vocalists Carina Round and Juliette Commegere with their Enya-like delivery reminds us once again of the diversity of Puscifer’s influences.
‘Simultaneous’ opens with an utterly captivating introductory monologue, only to launch into a growling bass laden riff of the sort we were accustomed to hearing in Maynard projects prior. The track’s apocalyptic imagery contains a surprising glimmer of hope and positivity: “Should the sun rain fire, should hell on earth freeze over, and our enemies wait hungry, see our better nature feed and calm them.” It’s a bit of new colour on Mr. Keenan, but it suits him.
Where vocal delivery is concerned on the opening tracks, listeners may be convinced that they’re listening to an Incubus record. That is until the album’s title track blasts onto the scene with its more familiar alt-metal arrangement and Maynard’s deranged growling. Making allusions to a variety of sexual innuendos set against the theme of greed and corruption, you’d be forgiven for confusing the title track with any pick of Faith No More songs.
For a band that literally started as a comedy sketch show joke and was widely regarded as such, ‘Money Shot’ shows a level of maturity shining through. Although Maynard himself referred to Puscifer as “simply a playground for the various voices in my head,” it seems as though the bell has rung and play time is over.
With those all too familiar traits slowly creeping back into this particular project, it’s easy to get the impression that Maynard is longing to return to the formula that he was once so revered for. But if it’s another Tool album you’re waiting on don’t hold your breath; at best, ‘Money Shot’ will act as the methadone Tool junkies so desperately crave after their last hit almost a decade ago.
‘Money Shot’ is out now via Puscifer Entertainment.