Puscifer has always been a deliberately mixed bag. Maynard James Keenan is best known as one of the most recognizable voices in modern metal through his band Tool. On a break from that project as well as from the more melodic albeit experimental rock of A Perfect Circle, Puscifer benefits from the focus of an otherwise unfocused creative mind. It gives Keenan a sandbox in which to exercise the more darkly comedic manifestations of his creative talent. That necessitates a certain diversity and inconsistency to the contents of a particular album. Money Shot is the third full-length studio album for the project and presents itself as a far more serious work while eschewing any notions of staying in line with a particular theme.

If there is a common element among the album’s 10 tracks, it’s the down-tempo, chilled-out pace that the band maintains. This style goes way back to one of Puscifer’s earliest releases, a cover of “Rocket Man,” but until now it’s never been the dominant feature. The mellow plod of a dark pop song used to be a highlight or infrequent occurrence on previous Puscifer records. Here they’re the beginning and the end and most everything in between. Even when soaring with a guitar-driven riff that alludes to his other projects, Money Shot always returns home to the quiet atmospherics and vocal-driven melodies of Keenan’s voice.

The raw power of the record doesn’t really come through until Keenan finally drops the pretence and simply admits that he’s ready to let the demons out. “The Arsonist”, arguably one of the spookiest songs in modern sci-fi, comes out in the end with an uncanny and unsettling tone.

The production quality is great. Female vocals, simple electronic patterns, fantastic sound design and even much needed wall-of-guitar drone introduces a pattern which may not allow for easy indexing. “Autumn” closes the record the same way it came in with “Galileo,” but the difference lies in the strength and conviction of Maynard’s vocals. In this case, they indicate careful thought, song-writing and attention to detail where in some of his earlier work you could expect to hear humour, irony or seemingly simple send-ups of rock and roll.

Yet somehow the record doesn’t quite reach the epic status it deserves. There’s simply nothing in that commands repeat attention or elation, nothing that demands an instant rewind. It meanders aimlessly through its dark tone, and despite Keenan’s complex and beautiful vocal melodies, there’s little to hang on to. It’s comes off like just another alternative rock record.

While Money Shot is a great listen, there isn’t enough to call it ground-breaking. It does temporarily satisfy our desire to hear Keenan go aggressive with his delivery. His fans so long for more of what he Keenan gave them in his other projects that this record almost becomes a teaser for what might be coming. He touches on it on “Grand Canyon,” with its heavy drums and loud, unfaltering choruses. But it lacks sincere emotional impact, and one can’t help but be distracted; we know Keenan and his other projects are capable of far more. It’s no Tool or A Perfect Circle, but it’s the closest he will get without taking it to that level. This is experimental music with mature and meaningful care taken by the songwriter. But this is like taking a ride on a really nice bike when you know there’s a Ferrari in the garage.

One Comment

  1. G Man

    March 10, 2021 at 11:14 am

    Completely disagree. Money Shot is my favourite Puscifer album. Its phenomenal

    Reply

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