Two contrasting views of the Pusci-verse, both intimate and extravagant.
Words by Jake Sanders (@themetalscholar):
The realm of multimedia presentations have been largely dominated by a world of iconic imagery, the groundwork laid out by such projects as Pink Floyd's The Wall, as well as The Beatles' Yellow Submarine. Both cornerstones of the phenomenon, these long-play spanning benchmarks work as a creative diorama to the abstract lore and a focused vision that tethers the sights, and more importantly, sounds, together.
This month has brought us Puscifer's grand vision: two sister pieces to their first two celebrated albums, aptly named V is for Versatile and Parole Violator — an anthology of album tracks and E.P. hits that have formed over two hours of re-imagined songs, skits, and eye candy to please die-hard fans and casuals alike.
The major difference between the two films are their respective tones. They both feature starring roles for the various members of the band, including cameo appearances from the infamous Billy D and Hildy Berger — two characters whose reappearance makes for a hilarious and oddly canon take on the world of Puscifer lore. In one clip, Agent Dick Merkin dives into a tangent of Hollyweird, aliens, and sci-fi cloning, all before being introduced to the marrow of the piece, an oddly vulnerable studio presentation of "V" is for Vagina (2007), brought to life in the Sunset Sound studios of Los Angeles. Their efforts are appreciated, as the traditional elements that brought such a celebrated benchmark are woven into different patterns, featuring a bare-bones set and no costumes. It's here that we receive yet another money shot from the group, as psychedelic, gritty, dark atmospheric hits are turned into chamber music for the electronically jaded.
It feels raw and protective of its core material. From the groovy Queen B kickstart, the band takes painstaking efforts to surgically install additional vocals, denser bass presence, a new appreciation for octave changes on the fly, and copious use of a Prophet-10 synth to insert a world of new layers into a maximally rebuilt sound structure that begs for its own cut of the classic LP. Thumpy changes with seemingly Tool-esque sound make an entrance on the title track, an enthralling addition to a song that has been repeatedly made stronger by live variations on the original. Tack on some extra re-imagined tunes from "C" is For... (2009), as well as the Donkey Punch the Night (2013) era, and you have the parallel version of Puscifer's debut record with a healthy addendum of fresh takes. Old dogs with new tricks.
Its accompanying film is the virtual opposite in both visual scope and tone. Whereas its partner is based around the intimacy of the experience, both seeing the band out of costume, as casual as possible, in a closed environment, Parole Violator takes an up-front approach to presentation. Set in L.A.'s iconic venue, The Wiltern, the film features spiraling kaleidoscopic fractals against a darkened stage, the theme of light and shadow crafting colorful patterns across the bodies of the performers as they take viewers through a live rendition of Conditions of my Parole, a showcase of oversaturated color that is peppered with the continual legal struggles of Mr. Billy D, who has seemingly become more of a public nuisance than originally anticipated.
Fans of Puscifer will be thrilled by such an in-depth glance at the early years of this group's history. These two films represent the culmination of years of experimental music creation, molded by the hands of a team who understands stage symmetry, effective depth of field, and useful mood lighting. Casual fans, and newcomers alike, will be delighted by the amount of detail and level of immersion to their introduction to a band who has masterfully blended rock and electronic facets of their live presence. Though utterly absurd and seemingly out of place against a serious performance, old-timers to the Pusci-verse will understand the duality of the group, and its origin within the insane.
Those looking to escape into a world of some of their favorite music would do well to capitalize on V is for Versatile and Parole Violator before it's too late. There are entire segments of skits that reach far beyond the pale into a world of conspiracies, unhinged drama, and ridiculous stereotypes that fit like a glove onto the Saturday Night Live stage, but with filthier mouths. These films are rife with successfully executed performances of a group's early work in a way that isn't even trying to be nostalgic. It is this critic's belief that these are two albums with stylistic differences between their predecessors, one that should be catalogued and set apart as a definitive trial for those looking for the modern takes on the classics from over a decade ago. It's worth it. It feels like being treated to a rebuild of the original schematic, and in many ways, that makes these the stronger — and stranger — offering. Fill your senses with all the Puscifer you can handle.
Head HERE to check out the double feature, snag merch, tour tickets, and more.