By Johnny Firecloud at 9:47 AM Sunday, November 15th 2009
Dwelling in a carnal carnival atmosphere thick enough to choke on, Puscifer is Tool / A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan’s private playground of self-indulgence and social collaboration that requires far less analytical astuteness than his bands. Known for crude sexual references, multi-character stage shows and a wide range of guests, the bizarre creative context of one of Rock’s most powerful and versatile singers is laid out, unchecked, for us to explore. Results may vary.
“C” Is For (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference HERE) is a collection of six tracks – three new songs, one unreleased favorite and two evolved live versions of tracks from the project’s 2007 debut full-length album, “V” Is For Vagina. Rather than the multilayered metaphors veiling introspective and sociopolitical commentary that pervade his other work, the EP is full of poetic imagery and songs of comfort, of isolationism and cold beauty. Though you wouldn’t know it by title/cover art alone.
As with their debut, this is not the place for Maynard’s apocalyptic wailing. It’s here that he holds a candle in high winds, delicately moving through each piece with a soft croon as soulful, eerily gorgeous harmonies weave in and out, alternately countering and complimenting melodies and rhythms. During Vagina Mine it’s easy to forget that you’re listening to a live recording; the “V” track is much more fleshed out, grinding and pulsing in ways the original release only hinted at.
Mission, featuring actress/model/spider-lady Milla Jovovich in glass-shattering tones of bratty mememe sexuality over Keenan’s whispery eroticism and an absolutely grating “What do you know?” loop on every eight count. It’s a misstep to pair the track with the beautifully somber Momma Sed, encapsulating a mother’s wisdom in a distinctly Maynard-esque way: “Life will pound away where the light don’t shine, son. Take it like a man.” Keenan’s voice is a ray of warm comfort in a sea of isolation, an acceptance that heartbreak is inevitable but “this pain will pass away”.
The fact that Potions sounds like A Perfect Circle mixed with Year Zero-era Nine Inch Nails leads one to the curious fact that NIN nucleus Trent Reznor is credited on the track. Low-pulsing industrial synths and ’80s pop-rock melancholy over steel acoustics play under Keenan’s falsetto, chilly and yet comforting at once. It’s a valuable player on “C” is for (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference HERE), but the true highlight is Humbling River, a building, percussive rhythm that becomes a thundering pulse. Featuring gorgeous harmonies by Carina Round & Devo Keenan, Maynard’s teenage son, the feeling of belonging and bracing for a storm among the fellow devoted is a powerfully moving one. Maynard’s “Brave the icy wind and fire” counters Carina and Devo’s “It’ll take a lot more than words and guns,” creating a cross-stream current that transcends anything else on the EP.
This is a solid collection of tracks that feature several colors from the softer side of Keenan’s musical quiver, and fans won’t have trouble finding at least one song to tune their heartstrings to. It’s not nearly as sexually charged and juvenile as its title may suggest, and while some may be disappointed in that, it’s for the best.