Friday Full-Length: The Claypool Lennon Delirium, South of Reality

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

The Claypool Lennon Delirium, South of Reality (2019)

As the second album from the headliner collaboration of Sean Ono Lennon and Les Claypool begins, after some yes-this-is-gonna-be-weird backward voices, there’s a sweet-toned guitar shimmer that lends a peaceful vibe to the unfolding opener “Little Fishes.” That serenity is subversive. The song continues a thread of real-world cynicism that was laid out on their 2016 debut, Monolith of Phobos, and which this more realized sophomore effort updates with references to mercury leaking into the water supply, the Pilsbury dough boy, trans issues and Obi-Wan Kenobi — the latter of whose mention is followed by the signature swish-swish of a lightsaber, which is already not the first of the many creative arrangement elements put to use on the nine-track/47-minute outing. Ono Lennon and Claypool worked exceptionally well together the first time out, and South of Reality finds them all the more driven, not just in social commentary — though the record does seem to touch in with the ground regularly; it opens with “Little Fishes,” makes a centerpiece of “Easily Charmed by Fools” and closes with “Like Fleas” — but in storytelling as well. Second track and album highlight “Blood and Rockets: Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons / Movement II, Too the Moon” recounts the saga of rocket scientist and Aleister Crowley follower Jack Parsons and his time spent bridging the gap between outer space and the outer limits of ritualism, orgies and the like. The later “Toady Man’s Hour” almost certainly has its basis in real-world subject matter, though it leaves to interpretation who the toady man in question is, but “Blood and Rockets,” “Amethyst Realm,” and even “Boriska,” though it’s also named after a single person and tells their narrative in linear fashion, pull back from a direct social commentary and highlight the fact that there are multiple songwriters at work.

Those songwriters just happen to be Les Claypool and Sean Ono Lennon.

The latter, as the son of Yoko Ono and John Lennon, finds an outlet in The Claypool Lennon Delirium for experimentalism and melodic songcraft alike. There are, almost inevitably, a cacheThe-Claypool-Lennon-Delirium south of reality of Beatlesian moments, as though this project — as opposed to his work in The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Cibo Matto, Action Figure Party, etc. — is a place where those various sides can be reconciled. And for his part, Claypool is right in there. The Primus frontman and iconic jammer not only seems to drive a good portion of the songwriting on “South of Reality (Path of Totality),” “Little Fishes,” “Toady Man’s Hour,” “Easily Charmed by Fools,” and “Like Fleas,” but he brings vocal harmonies and a trademark bounce to Ono Lennon‘s material that only furthers the spirit of collaboration between the two. And more, that line of “whose song is this?” is blurrier on South of Reality than it was on Monolith of Phobos, and as the two mix instrumentation — Paulo Baldi plays drums and Adam Gates adds “voices,” but beyond that, guitar, bass, keys, vocals, and so on are all Claypool (who also engineered and mixed) and Ono Lennon (who also produced) — they seem all the more at home in this manner of working. There’s still a resonant sense of variety in the material, and definitely two personalities at play, but the mutual affection for classic progressive rock and psychedelia they showed in covering King CrimsonFlower Travellin’ BandThe Who and Pink Floyd on 2017’s Lime and Limpid Green EP serves them well in these songs and is a uniting factor. In their more lush moments, as on “Blood and Rockets” or “Amethyst Realm” or the penultimate “Cricket Chronicles Revisited: Pt. 1, Ask Your Doctor/Pt. 2, Psyde Effects,” with its rampant percussion and vocal tradeoffs, they not only pay tribute to this lineage, but add to it with a tonal presence and open creative spirit. This is not without some level of self-indulgence, but prog never was.

And for as far as they range, either on “Cricket Chronicles Revisited” — indeed, it’s a sequel to the two-part “Cricket and the Genie” from Monolith of Phobos — or in “Amethyst Realm,” which is the longest cut at 7:47, they always seem to find themselves out in that psychedelic fray. Having a Les Claypool bassline to work around certainly never hurts in that regard, though Baldi might be unsung hero of South of Reality as well, as the drums are not only malleable to the angular push and bounce of the title-track but able as well to keep up with the percussion in “Cricket Chronicles Revisited” and the languid unfolding of verses and chorus in “Amethyst Realm.” Both of those jam well into the dimensional planes of the far-out, where “Blood and Rockets” holds its form a bit more in the wash of gorgeous vocal melody of its second movement, but they’re never lacking direction either, and that helps tie them to some of the shorter songs, like “Toady Man’s Hour” or “Like Fleas,” which caps South of Reality with probably the “realest” bit of perspective of all via an image of the living planet conjuring earthquakes to shake humanity from its surface, “Like fleas on the back of a dog.” At least it would be well earned, and if anything was left standing, we’d probably leave some nice ruins for the sentient dolphins or space archaeologists to check out later.

A record of this profile — name brand, to say the least — playing to such influences doesn’t happen often. The Claypool Lennon Delirium make toys of the outwardly bizarre and seem to have a good time playing with those toys, which, honestly, is probably how a second record happened in the first place. And like the compass-bearing cockroach looking out over a desolate, alien landscape (plus a nifty use of Star Trek‘s font!) on its cover, South of Reality paints its own world and teaches listeners the rules of that world as it goes, which have grown all the more expansive as the last couple years have played out and this collaboration has progressed. We may all be doomed in the end, but it’s fun ride getting there.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

So, because I’m Mr. Goestoshows now, I’m hitting up the Middle East Upstairs tonight for Test Meat, Forming the Void, Kings Destroy and Gozu. And then tomorrow, I think I’m traveling with Gozu to New York to see the same show but with Clamfight opening instead of Test Meat. Gonna be good. Both nights. After I posted a thing whining about daydreaming about it on social media, I was invited to go guest vocals with Clamfight for the track “Echoes in Stone” from their last album. I don’t know if I’m going to yet or not, but it might be fun. We’ll see.

But look for those reviews early next week. I’ve also got slated a Mount Atlas EP stream for Monday, which I have no idea how I’ll put together other than to say I will because I said I would. That’ll be that.

It was busy week. Not as much onslaught as last week in terms of posts, which was purposeful on my part — I think I had seven posts one day this week, maybe? — as I can handle a six-post day if I feel like I need to, but anything more than that gets incrementally more consuming of my general well-being and I start to lose perspective. That little Gollum voice in my head steps in to remind me, “Nobody gives a crap,” which actually kind of turns out to be helpful in its way, since it means I can write that news story tomorrow and it won’t matter. I forget that sometimes. Then Gollum goes, “You don’t have any friends! Nobody likes you!” and I shame-eat more peanut butter.

At least it’s good. The baby likes it too, so we share.

This weekend is a new episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. Sunday, 7PM Eastern. Listen at:

Please tune in. I’m having fun doing that and I don’t want to get canceled because nobody listens. I don’t have any numbers to indicate that’s the case either way, but you know, I’m kind of a weirdo on that station, and way less metal generally than a lot of what they play, so yeah.

I’ll also have a wrap of the show on Monday. You know what? I wasn’t gonna, but let’s just do notes:

MON: Live review; Gimme wrap; Mount Atlas EP stream.
TUE: Live review.
WED: Cowboys & Aliens review/full album stream.
THU: No Man’s Valley video premiere/album review.
FRI: Weeed review.

There. Now it’s all out there and I can stop talking about it piecemeal. I’m a little concerned about how it’ll all get done, but screw it, I always am.

Got up a bit before 3:30 this morning. It’s been mostly 4:15AM the last couple weeks, but The Patient Mrs. was up and I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I just decided to stay awake. I’ll nap this morning or this afternoon — or both! — when the baby naps and thereby not die driving home from the show tonight. Good times. It’s about quarter to six now, so I expect the baby up momentarily. He almost never makes it past 6AM. If I’m still alive when he’s a teenager and sleeps late, I’ll do my best to remember these days of early alarms and writing in the kitchen before the sun comes up. Yesterday it was snowing overnight. That wasn’t so bad. I turned on the outside light and watched the snow fall as I wrote the Hexvessel review that went up a bit ago. Not my best review, but the circumstances were nice.

Post is already too long, so I’ll leave it there. Please have a great and safe weekend. If you’re out in Boston or Brooklyn at either of those shows, I’ll see you there, and otherwise, please check out the forum, radio stream, and merch at Dropout. Thanks for reading.

Ah, baby’s up. Like clockwork, this Pecan.

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