by- Sion Weatherhead
Diversity and cohesion- The two things that could never quite coexist in the music of Puscifer’s previous efforts, it has finally come together in the aptly named new album: Money Shot.
You can never talk about Puscifer without focusing on the prolific creative powerhouse that is Maynard James Keenan. The thing about Mr. Keenan’s is his true strength which has shined through all of his work in Puscifer, A Perfect Circle and of course, Tool- which has always been his lyrical and vocal prowess – and that was never an aspect that needed work in Puscifer.
It wasn’t until Puscifer coming into existence that Maynard began to truly compose music himself. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when composition held back the earlier songs. Despite the occasional gems such as ‘Vagina Mine’ ‘Momma Said’ or ‘Rev 20:20‘– V for Vagina sounded more like a gimmick than a serious attempt at an album. And while the second record improved sonically, there wasn’t enough focus on getting the dynamics right and ultimately, the music leaves something to be desired – a shame, as the lyrics were some of the best he has written.
All of this, is why Money Shot is such a pleasure. Because finally, all the pieces are there. The music has caught up with the vocals and lyrics, helping to put together a bigger, more complete picture. It’s like now, his words are firmly printed in a hardback book instead of say, the neat, insightful musings which you previously saw scrawled on cocktail napkins; served at your average strip club.
The opener Galileo shows off the improved composition and dynamic from the get-go. Just as any part of the music becomes tired, something for example ‘the groove’ is changed just in time to reinvigorate it – something that allowed previous Puscifer songs to stagnate. ‘Agostina’ is also a song worth mention. Dedicated to his daughter Lei Li Agostina Maria, it is written beautifully and possibly is the most heartfelt song on the album along with music that is full of wonder.
But as expected, Maynard’s lyrics are inveterately well written. Combined with his alluring vocals, it is still what draws you in the most. It is cryptic, mysterious, but strangely relatable. His laconic but angry and astute observations – blended with his masterful singing makes for a enjoyable and contemplative listen.
‘The Remedy’ is an absolute shiner. Showing vestiges of the kind of aggression you saw in older Tool songs; ‘Tongue-in-cheek’ and ‘Brutal’. At times, though, it’s a stark contrast to the aggressive lyrics, there are some truly beautiful moments of music, with elegant piano laid against Carina Round’s (vocalist, guitarist) matching vocal; as a steady baseline that drives the song to it’s peak; where it swings into a smashing, guitar driven chorus – accompanied by Maynard screaming his way through.
And of course, his signature humour is seen woven through the record where he deems appropriate, but ‘Simultaneous’ is probably the most obvious. This song contains an extended comical monologue of someone who was at a festival and discovered a fascinating lunatic, but then the song turns into a tale about the importance of humanity to find a way to be more self aware, to be benevolent no matter what is happening around you, and even when there is a “monster” within you to do otherwise.
There is still room for improvement, but there is a clear sign of growth and improvement. The only real downside to the album is ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ though it is a well written song lyrically, the music flirts with the repetitiveness seen in former records.
Overall, this is an album that has received a lot of care, and the direction it has taken should be welcomed by fans and new listeners alike. It grabs the genius that is littered through out the last two records and lays it concisely next to each other in an album of 10 songs. It stands tall and holds it’s weight. It is tight, well produced – listen with headphones.