Does Maynard James Keenan really think of Tool fans as a bunch of “misunderstood punky rocky gothy woe-is-me types” who hang in “a mound of black leather and army surplus jackets and boots and spiky egg white hairdos and mohawks and second generation and exploited and Minor Threat and Sex Pistols patches and stuff?” [As the crowd at a rock music festival is referred to during the opening voiceover to “Simultaneous” (a powerful track off Puscifer’s new album Money Shot)?] Maybe. Maybe not. Context, yes Maynard, I get it, it’s all got to be taken in context.
Nevertheless, as the narrator of the aforementioned voice over reveals, the only real interesting aspect of the crowd at said music fest is a character in an “oversized foam rubber cowboy hat” wearing “pink plastic Toys ‘R Us pistols and holster” and an off white shirt with tattered bell bottomed jeans who’s listening to Foreigner in his Walkman headset. Or in other words, an absurdity amongst the normalcy that has become the punky rocky gothy (read Tool-inspired) style and attitude as far as its parent music is concerned. He’s an absurdity that Maynard himself often disguises himself as nowadays. It’s this absurdity of a character who expounds the most Tool-like of references amongst a most Tool-like sounding album though. The foam rubber, pink toy pistol packing absurdist tells the narrator, near the end of their time together at the festival, that “We will never know world peace until three people can simultaneously look each other straight in the eye.”
Herein is the essence of, not only Maynard James Keenan’s new Puscifer album Money Shot, but of the whole phenomena that is Puscifer itself. Money Shot sounds like an amalgamation of every Tool and A Perfect Circle album thus far released. It looks like a comedy record though, with its absurd cover and title-not to mention the project’s name itself — (surely I don’t have to explain what a money shot is, in the PG and NC17 senses of the word-do I? And as for Puscifer — I believe the pronunciation is “pussy fur.”). Several of the songs on Money Shot have some pretty hilarious lyrics. Although they are lyrics that quickly lose their humor once their context (there’s that word again) is considered. Money Shot is a heavy, rocky, punky, metallic, and most directly, a gothy sounding album. It is an absurd album though, not just because of its incredibly cross purposed visuals, but because of its humor, heft and hilarity. Above everything, Money Shot forces you to confront the most familiar dark sonic landscapes (that we have come to expect from Tool and APC), but makes them unfamiliar, almost unrecognizable, through the absurdity of turning Beavis (of Beavis and Butthead fame) into a horrifyingly unfamiliar yet all too sadly realistic allegorical character that represents millions of unloved kids. The kind of kids who so desperately seek attention that they turn into arsonists (like Beavis himself was at the outset of his cartoon career), as the aptly titled “The Arsonist” hints at.
…but, as Maynard warbles, “Celestial motion/Choice and chances/Future love and life/Infinity has many a faces/I see them all tonight/In you/Our intersection/Our divine collision” during “Agostina,” we are hit with the starkly un-ironic reality that not everything here on Money Shot is meant to be absurd. There are moments where Maynard revels in his old love of celestial bodies (“Saturn comes back around!”-”The Grudge”) and the divine within and out (“Spiral Out! Keep Going!”-”Lateralus”) again like he does in “Agostina.” Sonically, “Agostina” would have been quite at home amongst the many similar tracks on APC’s Thirteenth Step. Lyrically, it would fit anywhere amongst Maynard’s projects, but really is most at home here on Money Shot. Also at home here is the haunting “Smoke and Mirrors” where Maynard seems to address the slant rhyming namesake of the whole musical project that is Puscifer: Lucifer himself. “Flippant,” an industrial sized, and sounding, track that would make Trent Reznor proud, betrays little that is absurd while it pays homage to the darker side of Maynard’s personified psyche. The electronically sludgy “Autumn” rounds out the album nicely with more absurdity devoid lyricism. At this point in the album one might almost forget that this an album titled Money Shot.
Maynard’s onto something here. If anything, he’s more depressing AND hopeful than ever on Money Shot. We might never know world peace because it’s probably always going to be a physical impossibility for three people to look each other in the eye simultaneously, but at least we are learning this from the most interesting of characters. Maynard and Puscifer are the perfect representation of the world today, hence the perfect band for the world today. It’s an absurd and ultimately depressing place, but at least it can be dressed up and made to have some fun on the way down the road to our own personal, but hopefully not universal, extinctions.
View gallery of their performance in Charlotte, NC this past month.