Somewhere in the old west of Arizona’s
Verde Valley, Conditions of My Parole was born and quickly named “a new
collection of court-ordered salty dance hits.” While there’s much behind the
deliverance of the album and its master crafter, Puscifer, better known as the
creative subconscious (or, in layman’s terms, solo work) of Maynard James
Keenan, anyone who even remotely follows the Tool and A Perfect Circle frontman
might find it interesting that the breeding grounds of his latest project began
in the fertile soil of L.A.’s comedy clubs, Puscifer becoming the name of the
fictional band on HBO sketch comedy series Mr.
Show. How else could you get away with naming your debut V is for Vagina?
In the three years since, Keenan and the ever-growing
musician/comedy troupe behind Puscifer have carried on the shtick, reinventing
the follies of touring bands with a rarely seen full-on entertainment revue
complete with props, costumes, and bizarre cast of characters. On Conditions of My Parole we meet Billy D,
“a trailer park resident and married to Hildy, punk rocker, anarchist” as well
as Major Douche and Linda, “a positive thinker, mother of four, and six-time
winner of the Verde Church Blue Ribbon Bake Off.” The album’s artwork, a
black-eyed prison inmate caressing some knockoff Dolly Parton in a timeless
Glamor Shot, only aids in the excitement for what might come for ticketholders
of the tour.
But bogus, concept-driven, narrow-minded hoax for cheap
music this is not. For as much effort Keenan puts into the head-scratching,
overarching plot of this project, he puts as much gumption into the music that,
on its own, could illuminate an applause sign. The only issue, then, is where
and on what planet these two mediums intersect. If comedy is what he is after,
then Keenan is bereft to remove himself from the serious friction of his
compositions, which makes it a stretch to believe the atmospheric techno blaze
of opening number “Tiny Monsters” could be ruminated upon by someone like Billy
D, unless of course the blatant, nail-driven drum riff is Billy hopelessly
beating on jail bars.
The dark, seedy underbelly of Keenan’s stock carries itself
further on the comet tail of Radiohead-recall track “Monsoons” before the
utterly demonic intro of “Toma” brings listeners to cower … so again one
wonders how the gingham girl on the cover fits into this? Unless that girl
happens to be singer/songwriters Carina Round or Juliette Commagere, who are
excellently cast to provide additional vocals on the album for a not so
hilarious, more haunting tandem play with Keenan’s hibernating growl. A perfect example is “Telling Ghosts” which
bears the crown of Tool’s regime, but given the intersection of a sensual
overtone, provides a whole new trajectory for Keenan’s craft.
The other, more silent female character who goes uncredited
on the album is Keenan’s mother, whose life and death have often inspired his
work, Puscifer being no exception. Track “Horizons” is allegedly about the
release of her ashes with a soul-baring purge walking amongst Aphex Twin
footsteps that pins the most fragile human existence with the cold reality of
Had Conditions of My
Parole not been recorded amongst the wine barrels at Keenan’s Cadueus
Cellars, one might take it too seriously … until you consider that Billy D and
Major Douche were probably created after a drink – or seven.
Monsters,” “Horizons,” “Conditions of My Parole” SELENA FRAGASSI