V Is for Vagina, the unfortunately titled full-length debut of Maynard James Keenan’s electro-rock project Puscifer had all the makings of a joke album, but some irresistible grooves made it more than a genitalia joke-laden novelty. Four years later, Puscifer is back with Conditions of My Parole, which, according to Keenan, is “like Twin Peaks in the desert.” Along with the man of seemingly endless talents for his strange desert journey is an impressive array of contributing artists including members of Bat for Lashes, The Mars Volta, and The Dillinger Escape Plan.
Album cover and project name aside, what is immediately apparent on Conditions is a more serious tone in comparison to V Is for Vagina. Opener “Tiny Monsters” is a tranquil, but foreboding track akin to the calm before the storm, with its soothingly harmonized vocals paired with subtly portentous drum machine beats. Accompanied by British singer-songwriter Carina Round on banjo-plucking “Green Valley”, Keenan fully delves into the kind of gentle croon he touched upon with A Perfect Circle, continuing to exhibit his impressive vocal range. “Ocean” feels equally haunting and relaxing with its cooed vocals and subdued, post-industrial electronic discordance.
While eeriness reigns supreme here, Keenan’s trademark humor is still present, and of course, he has not completely gone down the delicate path on Conditions. Lead single “Man Overboard” references This Is Spinal Tap as it creepily clatters along, and “Toma” contains those signature Keenan primal growls. The officially stated metaphor for Conditions of My Parole is appropriate, as the album tends to go for spookier vibes with a level of weirdness that’s not quite Lynchian, but disorienting enough. Although only an industry standard 12 tracks in length, Conditions of My Parole feels slightly overlong with its high points noticeably spread apart, resulting in a familiarity that detracts from its ability to unnerve.
Essential Tracks: “Tiny Monsters”, “Man Overboard”, and “Green Valley”