The The Claypool Lennon Delirium is a shining example of a group of seasoned, musical connoisseurs that simply hit the nail on the head.
All-star musical collaborations come thick and fast in this day and age. Whether it’s the supergroup everyone’s dying to hear after an extensive marketing campaign, or the secretly recorded surprise album from a major artist’s side project, it seems we can’t get enough of them lately. Many are short lived distractions from the artists’ day job, but the precious few end up becoming something truly sui generis.
Enter The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Offering up a strong blend of psychedelia, space rock, and sheer experimentalism; ‘Monolith of Phobos‘ sees musical juggernauts Sean Lennon (son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono) and Les Claypool (lead singer/bass player of Primus) unleash their first joint musical outing on the unsuspecting world. What’s the best thing about this little surprise? It’s everything you would and wouldn’t expect.
Sean Lennon’s genetic musical gifts are present throughout all of his work. He constantly demonstrates his father’s musical palpability on everything he records whilst simultaneously reflecting the abstractness of his mother. The warped mind of Les Claypool has created the twisted sound-track to every fairy-tale villain of our youth with his wonky, plodding (yet extremely versatile) bass playing. At first glance it seems like the greatest mismatch in history since Moby and Natalie Portman (thank god that’s over, am I right ladies?).
The hallmarks of both artists’ approach are present throughout the album and complement each other sublimely. Claypool’s cartoonishly evil vocal delivery gels so well with Lennon’s saccharine tone in what can only be described as a ying-yang aural dynamic.
Given the back catalogue of both musicians, it’s no surprise that this project would be decidedly leftfield. But the Delerium never takes us too far into this realm to be considered avant-garde. Thus, The Claypool Lennon Delirium demonstrates a rare quality that makes this musical partnership so unique; the ability to push each other into unfamiliar territory, but to also restrain each other when things threaten to go too far off course.
Immediately striking is the multi-instrumentalism of Lennon who not only provides vocals but also drum-tracks and keyboards/organs. However, most outstanding are Lennon’s lead guitar sections. At times these arrangements sound akin to the echoing soundscapes of David Gilmour on ‘Bubbles Burst‘ or the heavy riffery of Josh Homme on ‘Mr. Wright‘.
Anyone slightly familiar with the lyrical subject matter of Primus or the revolutionary stance of Lennon’s father will be pleased to hear ‘Ohmerica‘ with its scathing criticism of good old American politics. In typical Claypool fashion, there are tongue in cheek ballads of sexually deviant characters such as “Mr. Wright”; a peeping tom who get his rocks off watching oblivious women in the bathroom. In an equally sardonic vein is ‘Oxycontin Girl‘,which tells the story of an unfortunate oxycontin addicted girl “growing up in a heroin world”.
The recurring theme of the album focuses on the sci-fi, space rock element with the opening track employing the use of familiar cinematic themes. The celestial vocal harmonies may remind some listeners of the ‘Star Trek Theme’, while others may draw allusions to the haunting backing vocals of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘; the obvious monolith connection already there.
Throughout ‘Monolith of Phobos’ there is an unmistakable motif relating to the balance between light and dark, heavy and gentle, profound and jovial. To say this is merely a representation of the diverging styles of each artist would be a gross oversimplification. What the duo are trying to convey is that just as ‘Phobos‘never commits to straying too far in a single direction as their sound grows increasingly tempestuous; so too is the journey of life as turbulent. No one approach is better or more justified; it’s all just about finding the right medium which The Claypool Lennon Delirium most definitely has.
This happy medium could only be reached through the profound respect these veterans share for each other’s craft. The Claypool Lennon Delirium is a shining example of a group of seasoned, musical connoisseurs that simply hit the nail on the head.
This Claypool Lennon Delirium article was written by Kevin Browne, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.