I don’t deal well with short-term tops, the information and impressions just jumble up in my head and I feel a great snowy blankness all over my mind, so I’ve been thinking about one album which would summarize this year, both in terms of musical trend and on a personal level. There have been some pretty good releases, or at least a good number of interesting ones, but I can’t shake away the feeling that the new Puscifer album instantly became my musical way of visualizing the past twelve months from the first time I listened to it. I guess Conditions Of My Parole stood out, at least at first, because it was such a great surprise for me.
I am a big fan of the band Tool. Their music speaks to me in all the right ways, and I think Maynard James Keenan is one of the best vocalists ever to grace a rock stage. The fact that they issue albums so rarely never really bothered me, but I guess the past two years have been… accelerated, from my perspective, by a number of events, and I’d begun feeling cut off, getting the first symptoms of withdrawal, amplified by the rumors that a new release from them would be scheduled for 2011. Thankfully, Maynard is a notorious workaholic, and was never really able to stay away from other musical projects during the Tool silences. A Perfect Circle was fun while it lasted and some Puscifer songs from the first album were really quite good, although I never really liked the complete record. A dear friend says Maynard is the new Frank Zappa, and I was forced to agree with her when it came to V is for Vagina. It was a side of him I could guess at from his particular brand of showmanship demonstrated with Tool, but that twisted humor became the highlight with Puscifer and I didn’t really bite into it. I hadn’t expected Conditions of My Parole to go in such a different direction and it was a staggering and very welcome surprise that they did.
This album is so well thought out, so overwhelmingly relaxed and smooth, so self-sufficient that it was a tremendous experience for me to push play for the first time. Even the sizzling, haywire tracks, like Man Overboard, feel impeccably well-directed, perfectly dosed and measured to reach the peak of intensity at the precise right time. Don’t get me wrong, the album doesn’t feel mechanical at all, it’s just that well balanced. I didn’t get that vibe from V is for Vagina, not in the least. But knowing Maynard’s antics, it seems a lot more plausible now that that album was meant to make a splash, to draw attention and to provide an outlet for all the silliness which didn’t fit in any of his previous projects. After all, he said as much, but something didn’t really add up. Listening to Conditions of My Parole, I get the impression he’s playing a very fine game of strategy here, not only with the music itself, but with the project as a whole.
Mixing up elements of electronica, country, post-rock, grunge and a myriad other little nods and references to different styles and ideas only works as well because of Maynard’s vibrant vocals, smooth and always under control, binding the album in a loose and strong web of melody of almost luminous intensity. How he manages to shift the music from an artificial style akin to The Knife to urgent and organic tracks like Conditions of My Parole, and to pulsating, escalating songs like Green Valley is something I can’t really grasp, but I feel grateful that he does it in such a way that is seems easy. I never thought I’d come across a Puscifer album I could get lost in for hours and hours. It just didn’t seem like making that kind of music was on the project’s priority list. And yet, here it is.
It’s been a very tumultuous year for me, very divided. There’s a part of it I would cut out of my memory if I could. And then there’s the part which I would live out from now until there’s no life left to live. 2011 has been a bipolar year, a year of powerful contrast. And from this perspective, it has been balanced. It’s this balance, this serenity and power to control and guide oneself through the most perilous times that I want to take away with me into 2012. And the unprecedented trust I have in the people around me. I suspect Conditions Of My Parole will act as a very good reminder of this wish. May it inspire you as well!