What were you expecting? TOOL?! The biggest reason anyone should give Puscifer a chance isn’t because this is another Tool or A Perfect Circle. Puscifer, much like Caduceus Cellars, channels a new catharsis for Maynard James Keenan, a man striving to continually reinvent himself; not for his fans, but for his self.
What stays constant? The beautiful melodies written over rhythms and the lines that encapsulate aspects of the songwriter stay true to the many projects of Kennan. Themes not too distant from Tool or A Perfect Circle, but sort of with the feeling of a multiple personality disorder – like Keenan woke up wearing a rainbow pair of socks, khaki pants, and a tie, but can’t remember which of the 16 personalities added each piece of clothing. Such seems the nature of the artists with whom he collaborates. 16 unique styles assisted on this album, including members of ASHES dIVIDE, ex-Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore, and Keenan’s son Devo who all added spice to the chili. This new personality definitely suits him. He gets to experiment with a new show, a show that is, perhaps, more entertaining than his other bands.
The panned effect of the drums and the smooth vocal harmonies sounds like two different bands playing in two different rooms but feeling the same feeling. In “Monsoons,” as with many of Keenan’s projects, a resonation of an inner beauty exposes catharsis. The fact that he does what he does for his own reasons makes him both independent and bold. The capability to assess and step through the issues in his life projects from the music with chaotic rhythms quieted by rising melody.
The buzz bass continues like a mantra in “Green Valley,” with its lyric, “no direction but to trust the final destination,” matching the mantra.
The single, “Man Overboard,” begins with an electronic pulse like the song will burst into some ‘80s crap, but it builds with Keenan’s deep vocals. The This Is Spinal Tap reference subtly jokes “brace yourself for 12,” and shows he’s having fun.
Though the beginning of “Toma” sounds like an Arnold Schwarzenegger joke on his pronunciation of “tumor,” the lyrics clearly identify aspects to which the narrator addresses; “to my.” The slurred words open space for interpretation. One of the best lines, which sums with the phrase “knocked the wind out of my romantic side.” Again, the undercurrent of betrayed relationships and coming into one’s own remains a sober truth deep within the joke.
Track eight, “The Rapture,” may well stand with its hands in the air as the best combination of melody and dark intent. Singing along allows the vibrations to live deep within the stomach; the gall. “I’m ‘bout to drop you like Cain dropped Abel” strikes as one of the darkest ideas on Conditions of My Parole.
The title track adds a bit more country with a touch of slide guitar, and just a touch of backwoods feel. The power comes from the bass; the sly “help me out of this” puts a spin on a recurring theme in Keenan’s work – other people’s bullshit. “Conditions of My Parole” points a finger at the dry sort of humor Keenan is known for; many people just don’t get it. Those Tool and A Perfect Circle fans who listen to Puscifer expecting more of the same will feel disappointed. Much as the opening credits of Blood into Wine with Sonny and Cher’s song, “A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done,” introduced me to a new world of music – albeit from the early ‘70s – Puscifer will re-inspire those fans who connect with the essence of Keenan’s work.
Puscifer plays Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on November 30.