Listen

The Claypool Lennon Delirium Balances A Classic Sound With Light Madness

Mar 6, 2019
Originally published on March 5, 2019 8:24 pm

Just when it seems the shadow of The Beatles can't get any longer and everything in rock has been done before, along come Sean Lennon and Les Claypool, asking the musical question: What if, instead of ducking The Beatles, you embraced the band's tricks — the galumphing marches, the sun-dazed harmonies — and then made them a little weird?

South of Reality is the second album by the duo, who perform as The Claypool Lennon Delirium. As the bassist and chief prankster of Primus, Claypool has always been a bit of a mad scientist, pushing his gawky, tottering funk-metal creations to the brink of absurdity. But he's also a secret pop fan, who says he's spent 30 years trying, with mixed results, to write catchy hooks. In Sean Lennon (famous son of John), Claypool has a collaborator with an instantly recognizable voice, for whom this kind of candy comes naturally.

The two began working together in 2015, after Lennon's band, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, toured as an opening act for Primus. They released their debut in 2016, and began work on this follow-up with a week of open-ended jamming they recorded on their phones. Then, each went off and wrote songs built on those riffs.

YouTube

As with The Beatles, it's clear who the primary composer is on each tune. But Claypool says both multi-instrumentalists felt comfortable offering tweaks and suggestions during the recording. Many of the songs explore a surreal intersection — where the fitful upheavals of progressive rock collide with soaring, blissed-out refrains.

Almost every track on South of Reality is defined by a balance of opposing forces. Lennon and Claypool complement each other in a sweet and savory way just like John and Paul did. Sure, there are echoes of The Beatles (how could there not be?). But these echoes serve as points of musical departure and lead to unexpected, often beautiful, destinations that feel way more 2019 than 1969. Sometimes, the only way out is through.

South of Reality is out now via ATO Records.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

What you're about to hear is not some undiscovered Beatles track from "The Revolver Sessions." This was made last year.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRICKET CHRONICLES REVISITED")

THE CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM: (Singing) Things you once enjoyed do not feel quite right. Don't concern yourself...

KELLY: That's Sean Lennon, son of John, and Les Claypool, the bassist and chief prankster of the funk metal band Primus. They began collaborating in 2015. They have just released a second album as The Claypool Lennon Delirium. It is called "South Of Reality," and reviewer Tom Moon says it achieves an unexpected balance of beauty and light insanity.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Just when it seems that everything in rock has been done before and the shadow of The Beatles Can't get any longer, along come Les Claypool and Sean Lennon asking the musical question, what if instead of avoiding the influence of The Beatles, you embraced their tricks - the prim and proper marches, the sun-dazed harmonies - and then made them a little weird?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE FISHES")

THE CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM: (Singing) When will the youth get on its hind legs? Is the Golden Goose laying 3D printed eggs? When will the Easter Bunny come and hop it all away?

MOON: OK, maybe a lot weird.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EASILY CHARMED BY FOOLS")

THE CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM: (Singing) Easily charmed by fools. She's easily charmed by fools.

MOON: As the leader of Primus, Les Claypool has always been a bit of a mad scientist, pushing gawky, tottering funk metal creations to the brink of absurdity. But Claypool is also a secret pop fan. He says he spent 30 years trying, with mixed results, to write catchy hooks. In Lennon, he has a collaborator with an instantly recognizable voice and a gift for candy-coated melodies.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLOOD AND ROCKETS")

THE CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM: (Singing) How high, how high, does your rocket fly, does your rocket fly? Better be careful, 'cause you just might, you just might...

MOON: The two began working together in 2015 after Lennon's band Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger toured as an opening act for Primus. They released their debut in 2016 and began work on this follow-up with a week of open-ended jamming they recorded on their phones. Then each went off and wrote songs built on the riffs.

As with The Beatles, it's clear who the primary composer is on each tune. But Claypool says he and Lennon felt comfortable offering tweaks and suggestions to each other during the recording. Many of the songs explore a surreal intersection where the fitful upheavals of progressive rock collide with soaring, blissed-out refrains.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BORISKA")

THE CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM: (Singing) Boriska did it all for his mother. He just wanted to please her desperately. Boriska could never disappoint her. He told her what she wanted to believe.

MOON: Almost every track on "South Of Reality" is defined by a balance of opposing forces. Lennon and Claypool complement each other in a savory and sweet way, just like John and Paul did. Sure, there are echoes of The Beatles. How could there not be? But these serve as points of musical departure and lead to unexpected destinations that feel way more 2019 than 1969. Sometimes the only way out is through.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM SONG, "BORISKA")

KELLY: The latest from The Claypool Lennon Delirium is called "South Of Reality." Our reviewer is Tom Moon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.