Maynard James Keenan has earned plenty of cache as the frontman of both Tool and A Perfect Circle, and he wastes it all on “V” Is for Vagina, the musical manifestation of his multimedia side project Puscifer. For all the talent assembled for the album (collaborators include members of Nine Inch Nails, Primus, King Crimson, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Rage Against the Machine, plus Lisa Germano and Milla Jovovich), these ten overlong, undercooked tracks show none of the passion or intelligence that Keenan brings to his main gigs.
Most of the songs are built around hook-free production jobs and brooding, sub-Massive Attack beats, with the occasional country twang or gospel wail for flavor. Lyrics veer toward dumb sexual entendres (“I’m a pirate lost his booty/ I’m a pimp without a dog without a bone”) and hard-to-swallow smugness (“It’s always gonna be sour grapes with you, boy/ Until you get right with Jesus”). Keenan growls ’em all in a leering lothario bass.
Lord knows Tool can get insufferably serious, so good for Keenan for indulging his silly, libidinous side, even if it results in something as flaccid and unsexy as “V” Is for Vagina. But the problem with the album goes past its unmemorable music. It feels like a product of Keenan’s bloated bank account and even more bloated Rolodex, a tossed-off distraction for the days when he’s not tending to his Arizona winery. It’s the same impulse that drove Mike Patton’s star-studded Peeping Tom project, which also sucked. If Keenan weren’t involved, nobody would care about this album. Maybe “V” is for Vanity would have been more appropriate.