A band’s third album tells a lot about its career and whether or not the musicians will cave to pressure to write popular songs, wander off in a weird direction or write lethargically about life on a tour bus.
Maynard James Keenan, singer and songwriter for Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, contradicts himself for fun and puts his quirky humor into an important project with Money Shot.
The band takes the music, the songwriting and the process seriously. But fans will have to get past over-the-top country-living jokes and juvenile song titles first. Those who survived V is for Vagina and Donkey Punch the Night Away are ready for Money Shot. (I didn’t forget Conditions of My Parole, here. That album doesn’t have the same juvenile feel to me.)
Money Shot would be the closest thing to a throwaway track for me on this album. At two and a half minutes long, it’s also one of the shortest. I skipped it altogether in the first — and there were many — spin. When I forced myself to get past its implication, I listened closer, hearing a tension that pervades Keenan’s career: That state of being torn between doing what you love, creating something important, and making a living.
“You used to be driven by mission and lust, now it’s just all compensation.” –lyrics in “Money Shot.” This, of course, could be a calling out of other artists or others’ expectations…. (Notice there hasn’t been a new Tool album in a while?)
But the first song that caught me and reminded me instantly why I love Puscifer—and everything it maintains from Tool and A Perfect Circle—was “The Remedy,” where Keenan reverts to problem solver in his lyrics.
“You speak like someone who has never been smacked in the fucking mouth; that’s okay we have the remedy.”
Puscifer in its music wanders through varied influences. I can hear a love of country and blues as well as a familiarity with music created with keyboards and computers. The rhythms let listeners flow from tapping feet to the beat or riding the vocal melodies. And the raw aggression in some of the songwriter’s earlier career songs remains, but it’s much more subtle.
Themes of nature, of looking into the deep wound of the Earth and seeing hope in the cavernous Grand Canyon, are what make this album an important project.
“Simultaneous” at more than six minutes makes an impact. Slid in before the title track, which is spiked in the middle of the 10-song release, the spoken-word song might get missed.
But while fans might skip right over “Simultaneous,” I’m willing to bet its one of Keenan’s favorites. The songwriter has a way with words that always attracted this writer to all of his projects. Give the song your complete attention and interpret it as you would an important poem.
Fans of Puscifer will enjoy Money Shot. You will. I won’t babble on in this review: Go BUY Money Shot. While you’re at it, get tickets to the Nov. 8 show at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre because I promise Puscifer live is well worth the money.
It’s, as Keenan said, “more.”
But also, this album brings, “a culmination of all the things I’ve been exposed to and inspired by over the years,” Keenan said. “That combination of the digital programming combined with that acoustic element of the harmonies…. Trying to find that actual pulse, that breath of life within the digital landscape — and then just going ahead and bringing it in for real.”