Puscifer: Conditions Of My Parole Review

If the powers that be knew half the things I got up to, I’d definitely be on first name terms with a north london parole officer.

So it’s rather apt one of my favourite and most innovative musicians of the last decade should name his new album in homage to his own imaginary transgressions.

You probably know Maynard James Keenan better as the lead singer of prog rock pioneers Tool, or even alt rock outfit A Perfect Circle; yet trailing silently in the shadows of these musical behemoths lay the sonic enigma known as Puscifer.

More akin to a travelling troupe of mad, musical scientists then a conventional band, Puscifer consists of an ever shifting line up of musicians; fluidly changing shape to fit whatever song they perform.

The only constant is Keenan himself, who’s the conductor of Puscifer’s experimental orchestra.
Their discography to date, V For Vagina, remixed in V For Viagra and their C Is For (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference Here) EP, exhibit Keenan’s carnal odes laid bare for all to hear.

Sadly, few have.

Hopefully, Conditions Of My Parole will change that. With less harsh and industrial music then Puscifer’s previous releases, this is a much more accessible album than what’s gone before. Keenan’s even dropped the most offensive genitalia references for any prudes out there.

Blasting off with a space voyage on album opener Tiny Monsters, it sounds like Keenan’s counting down the days until the exodus from earth to planet Puscifer. For me, this electronic backdrop is merely a countdown to best song on Conditions Of My Parole, Green Valley.

Keenan dons his storytelling hat for this track, in essence a tribute to women and their primal relationship with nature. His ranging harmonies, accompanied by British singer Carina Round, further demonstrate Keenan’s diverse vocal range and tone.

The next few songs are mellow, mantra like arrangements that are easy to get lost in, only for the looming riff of a track like Man Overboard to slap you out of this eerily induced trance.

Conditions Of My Parole is an ongoing journey into the depths of Keenan’s peculiar mind, both in terms of composition and lyrics. It lures you in with conventional sounding compositions, only to turn your initial impressions on its head in now typical Puscifer fashion.

It’s the sound of Keenan thrusting his tongue down electronica’s throat, getting to second base with southern rock before finally settling on taking alt rock home for the night.

Individual highlights include The Weaver, a collection of philosophical musings over a dreamy, hazy cadence that sounds as though it’d be more comfortable on a Tool album, and title track Conditions Of My Parole; a comical paean describing a hillbilly’s rocky relationship with the law and women.

Puscifer’s previous albums appear as mere trickles on a tree of musical conformity compared to Conditions Of My Parole. Maynard James Keenan’s has refined his unique and eclectic style, serious subject matter is counterbalanced with comedy and the intense guitar work is compensated by soft electro beats.

It’s an album of many shifting faces. just like the man himself. And if listening to unorthodox music is a crime, then I think just violated my parole.

Kareem Ghezawi

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November 2011
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