The Claypool Lennon Delirium
Monolith of Phobos
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The most surprising element of this collaboration between Primus’ frontman/bassist and Sean Lennon is how unsurprising it is.
Take one part of Les Claypool’s patented, instantly identifiable funk/prog bottom, add Lennon’s Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger band’s psychedelic pop, infuse with a dollop of ’60s Hawkwind/Pink Floyd space rock and turn them loose in a studio. The result is this consistently enjoyable, often terrific, frequently challenging 11 track, 51-minute aural rocket ship exploration quite rightly tagged “delirium” by its duo of frontmen.
The union began when Lennon’s Tiger band opened for Primus, forging a mutual admiration society that ended with Claypool inviting Lennon to his studio for further musical explorations. They weren’t necessarily planning an album, but they got a pretty great one anyway. The resulting venture could have been a self-indulgent mess, but it’s not. Rather it’s a full blown meeting of the minds, finding the twosome playing/overdubbing every instrument (Lennon handles drums), sharing producing credit and even providing the artwork.
Anything that Claypool touches is driven by his distinctive funky/twisted/punk-prog bass lines and a case can be made that his fingerprints are more dominant overall on these tracks, especially on tunes like the caffeinated, Silly Putty-riff pulsing through the lecherous tale of “Mr. Wright,” something that could have come off any existing Primus or Claypool side project. But Lennon brings plenty of his less peculiar, more melodic, heavily hallucinogenic style too. And it’s fun to pick out a few Beatle-esque touches that crop up, in particular on the unusually titled “Cricket and the Genie (Movement ll, Oratorio Di Cricket),” parts of which have origins in “I Am the Walrus”-era Fab Four.
The duo seems to be having a blast, especially when sharing lead vocals on the rubberized spring of “Captain Lariat,” spinning out druggy yet fun and often funny lyrics as Lennon’s guitar and Claypool’s bass play tag with each other. The intoxicating ’60s-styled trippy ballad “Boomerang Baby” sounds like something from an early Spirit album. Fans of Claypool are used to his tricked-out song titles and tracks such as “Breath of a Salesman” and the closing “There’s No Underwear in Space” (an instrumental) seem to emerge from his funhouse mirror brain approach.
The disc’s title, which apparently refers to a large rock on Mars’ Phobos Moon, also sets an enigmatic mood that shifts between the outer limits and the inner, perhaps non-linear, connection between two off-the-popular-radar frontmen whose complementary yet distinct talents run free on this mind-expanding roller coaster ride.