Review: Puscifer – Money Shot

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I’ve come to accept the fact that the new Tool album will never actually come out. Yes, they did recently play a Halloween show where they allegedly played part of a new song, but I wouldn’t put it past Maynard James Keenan and his bandmates if they were just fucking with us on that. With all the essentially non-news that’s reported about the status of Tool’s “forthcoming” record, it’s at least good that Maynard is keeping busy with his Puscifer project that I have consistently enjoyed since their 2007 debut, the immature but somehow totally appropriate V Is For Vagina. Their latest offering, Money Shot, is no exception to the enjoyment.

This is only Puscifer’s third proper studio album in their ten years of existence, though they’ve filled the interims with EPs, remix albums, and live documents. 2011’s Conditions Of My Parole was a very impressive record, presenting tons of sonic textures and imagery that the debut didn’t quite explore consistently enough. Money Shot‘s opening two songs ‘Galileo’ and ‘Agostina’ are very similar to the opening tracks of Conditions…, ‘Tiny Monsters’ and ‘The Green Valley.’ Both sets of songs lyrically explore themes about the world, visually and philosophically, and because of the similarity, Money Shot from the start seems like a perfect continuation of Conditions… despite the four year gap.

‘Grand Canyon’ is one of my favorite songs on the record, which also bears resemblance to Conditions‘ third track ‘Monsoons,’ in the way of just overall sonic vibe and message. ‘Grand Canyon,’ however, I find to be even more explorative and captivating, especially with the harmonized vocals in the chorus repeating, “One among infinity, witnessing the majesty, calm in this humility, witnessing the majesty, hope as far as one can see, witnessing the majesty, standing on the edge of forever.” The song breaks in the middle to introduce a spacey electronic section which is not atypical of Puscifer’s music, and an element that I think makes them stand out from Maynard’s other projects.

One of the weirdest and most interesting moments on Money Shot (and in Puscifer’s entire catalogue) is ‘Simultaneous,’ almost the first half of which is led by (what I’m assuming is) a low-pitch-shifted voiceover telling a story about this Western-looking character occupying this “island of misfits” that they both live on. It’s a captivating and descriptive piece, detailing this mysterious character’s obsession with his Walkman, and as the narrator tries to retrieve batteries for him, he tells the narrator, “We will never know world peace until three people can simultaneously look each other in the eye,” immediately followed by Maynard’s vocals. The back half is electronic flourishes, distorted bass, and anthemic drums and vocal passages, rounding out its near-six-minute run time completely justifiably.

The title track ‘Money Shot’ is where I start to believe that Maynard intentionally composed and arranged this album very methodically. It’s the shortest, fastest, and most punked-out song on the entire record, as was the title track of Conditions… It’s almost eerie to a point of how similar the albums’ flows are, in addition to the unconventional album art that both records have. ‘The Arsonist’ calls back to Conditions… final third opener ‘The Weaver,’ with Maynard focusing on one sort of activity and painting the picture of the narrator as one participating, analyzing his work. ‘The Remedy’ harkens back to ‘The Rapture,’ a revenge song that still remains my favorite from Conditions… While ‘The Rapture’ took a more biblical approach to its message (“I’m gonna drop you like Cain dropped Abel, you better hope it takes you”), ‘The Remedy’ holds back nothing; “You speak like someone who has never been smacked in the fucking mouth, that’s okay, we have the remedy.”

The album’s final moments close out the record in exactly the way it needed to be done; they’re all on the slower end of the spectrum but they all groove differently. ‘Smoke And Mirrors’ is a very cold and sparse song, while ‘Life Of Brian (Apparently You Haven’t Seen)’ has a driving drum beat carrying it, some of the strongest female vocals that the album has to offer, and what sounds like a distorted trombone towards the end that really makes the track a noteworthy composition. ‘Autumn’ is another nature-centric song that I can’t stop myself from comparing to Conditions… closer ‘Tumbleweeds.’ It’s a great song in its own right, everything on Money Shot is, I just like succumbing to the strong musical creativity that Maynard has to offer within all his projects.

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I’ll admit that I listen to Puscifer way more than I listen to Tool. No disrespect to Tool, they put out some killer records, but it’s not the easiest thing to just put on immediately if I want to listen to something, Puscifer’s music is much more emotional, accessible, and experimental. Maynard isn’t afraid to take risks on Pusicfer records which I love. Really the only thing I could say negatively about this record is that it does very much sound like Puscifer doing what they do, but while the music and style itself is the same, it’s done so well and in such a way that doesn’t make it an exact carbon copy of of their previous work. There’s obvious connections (and maybe some I’m overthinking), but I keep returning to Money Shot because it’s a fantastic record on its own. Chill out Tool nerds, perhaps one day we’ll all wake up and their new album will exist in the world, but for now, there’s no better waiting material.

9/10

Written by L. Mounts

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