November 6, 2015 Puscifer – Money Shot (Album Review)
Maynard James Keenan may be best known as the lead singer for the bands Tool and A Perfect Circle, but his latest project Puscifer has gained notoriety over the last several years. Puscifer is as much of a franchise as it is a band. In Jerome, Arizona, there is a store by the same name where fans can find anything from t-shirts to sunscreen, one can even get a haircut by a professional barber in the salon located in the store. Releasing their first EP in 2007, Don’t Shoot The Messenger, Puscifer has just released its third full-length album on October 30th, Money Shot. It was recorded earlier this year in a studio in North Hollywood, California and also at “The Bunker” of Keenan’s Arizona winery, Caduceus Cellars. It was then mixed and mastered just in time for this year’s grape harvest.
Working with most of the same musicians Keenan worked with on his last release in 2011, Conditions Of My Parole, Money Shot is a very cohesive collaboration. All of the tracks were written by Keenan, Mat Mitchell, and Carina Round; except for “Smoke And Mirrors” written by only Keenan and Mitchell. Mat Mitchell and Puscifer produced the album. The musicians that are on this album vary per song, but are made up of Maynard James Keenan (Vocals), multi-instrumentalist Mat Mitchell (Bass/Guitars/Keys/Mandolin/Banjo/Programming), Carina Round (Vocals), Matt McJunkins (Bass), Jeff Friedl (Drums), Tim Alexander (Drums), Jon Theodore (Drums), Juliette Commagere (Keys), and Keenan’s son Devo Keenan (Cello).
The opening track, “Galileo” has the feel and sound from their prior release, Conditions Of My Parole, however the vocal layering of Keenan and Round set it worlds apart, giving it a new and fresh signature. The next song, “Agostina” is undoubtedly a heart-felt homage to Keenan’s daughter, who was born in July 2014. It is easy to hear the A Perfect Circle’s influence, but again, the song is able to set itself apart. Keenan has little to no effect on his voice, and this song lends to his unique comforting voice with Round adding subtle highlights.
Following is “Grand Canyon,” which was released as a video this past July as a teaser to the full-length album release. It has a spiritual sentiment and Keenan’s vocals convey his message like a preacher giving a sermon. Round adds color and a sensual feeling with her vocals. With deep bass lines throughout the song to keep the listener grounded, one can “Stand fearless on the edge of forever,” there are also chaotic programmed beeps, which may symbolize how even in a place of serenity one can be amongst chaos.
Then there is “Simultaneous” which starts off with an interesting story, spoken word by Keenan, of a chance meeting with an intriguing concertgoer at a festival who after speaking gibberish for most of the encounter suddenly has an awakening as he loses battery power in his Walkman. This man exclaims, “We will never know world peace until three people can simultaneously look each other straight in the eye;” giving the listener much food for thought. Breaking into song, the lyrics may seem rather bleak, but it does not leave the listener without hope as the vocals “Find a way through, around or over” repeat to lift them up.
The title track, “Money Shot” is by far the heaviest song on the album. With heavy bass and acoustic drums, Keenan belts out the vocals and one can almost feel the punch. “The Arsonist” is a fine melding of acoustics and electronics. Keenan’s vocals are softer in this song, and that gives the listener a sense of seriousness. With the lyrics “Your social skills resemble arson,” listeners will know the depth of the lyrical meaning to this song. Round adds a soft, smoky feel to it with her vocals. The next track, “The Remedy” has a soft tone to start with but gets stronger as the song progresses. It has a strong message to those who act like know-it-alls, “You speak like someone who has never been slapped in the fuckin’ mouth, that’s ok, we have the remedy.”
Next, “Smoke and Mirrors” has influences of A Perfect Circle’s 2003 release Thirteenth Step and gives the listener the feeling of a snake slithering in the grass, which fits the song well with the lyrics, “Just a snake and a liar.” Then “Life Of Brian (Apparently You Haven’t Seen)” is a song about making choices in life, “Have a lovely life in your chosen hell,” bringing the listener to some dark places. The music is mostly electronic, Round starts the vocals, then Keenan lays it down and Round continues to accent him. Towards the end of the song, those familiar with Round’s solo work will get a treat as she lets loose and releases her innermost voice. The final track “Autumn” is the perfect ending to the journey this album takes you on. It is hypnotic and melodic, taking the audience on a path not always taken.
The entire album is a mix of acoustics and electronics that give it an overall melodic tone. Keenan’s life experiences and living environment, the Arizona desert, have made up most of his story telling lyrics on this album. As with any of Keenan’s lyrics, you can try to find the literal meaning, but what makes his lyrics unique is they invite the listener to draw the meaning that relates most to their own personal experiences. A tour in support of the new release began November 1st and will continue on till mid December. CrypticRock gives Money Shot 5 out of 5 stars.
Top photo credit: Robin Laananen