Critics seemed at a loss to understand Maynard James Keenan's first solo effort as Puscifer. From the project and album's odd, seemingly sexist titles (V Is for Vagina), to the groove- and growl-based song structures, this wasn't the Keenan of recordings past. Gone is the progressive, storming art rock of Tool in favor of atmospheric vibes. And the glorious instrumentation and catchy hooks of A Perfect Circle are replaced with shuffling bluesy drums and jazzy strings more in tune with Barry Adamson or Angelo Badalamenti. Getting past the album's frequent sexual themes isn't that difficult, knowing that the project's name is taken from a Mr. Show sketch that featured Keenan. Yes, the artwork is a little racy and juvenile, and naming a song "Vagina Mine" doesn't suggest mass accessibility, but apart from a couple goofy lines about a "lady" that's got "thickness," showing the "difference between (a) gun and (a) pistol," and a "pimp without a dog without a bone," things are pretty tame. Musically, the groove is the thing, as Keenan and collaborators from bands like Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine allow each track to settle into a loungey light-industrial groove without every really worrying about choruses or traditional song structure. When things aren't clicking along Adamson and Badalamenti style, the scuzzy but endearing chug feels like a slowed down Revolting Cocks or Skinny Puppy, but instead of horror show theatrics, Keenan revels in slightly seedy themes of mild perversion, old west standoffs, and wanton spirituals. Keenan alternates track from track between a processed, gurgling growl that could be Ogre's younger brother and his usual emotive style. While three or four of the songs are reminiscent of A Perfect Circle, they don't measure up musically to Billy Howerdel's soaring arrangements. Sonically, there's plenty of flesh, bones, meat, and crunch at work, but there's an undeniable sense that many of the tracks could use a little more work in the songwriting department. Background vocals from Lisa Germano and Milla Jovovich provide a little beauty, but they're mostly buried. That Keenan also sold a line of clothes under the Puscifer label goes a small way to suggesting the disposability of many of these songs. Perhaps something small but essential in the music was lost while crafting the brand. Many fans of Tool might find little to latch onto, but those who favor A Perfect Circle, particularly the more varied eMOTIVe covers album, are more likely to appreciate Keenan's voice alongside the slinky, fun grooves that define Puscifer. With a revolving door of collaborators at hand for any touring after the album's release, stylistically and artistically, Puscifer is like Keenan's own personal version of Pigface.
AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina