Sean Lennon and Les Claypool have had distinguished careers in music. Both have followed their own sensibilities regardless of trends, and their talent and independent spirits have won them admirers around the globe.
Sean Lennon, son of John and Yoko, grew up a fan of Claypool’s band Primus and was stoked to find himself on the same festival bill as Primus a few years back. When Lennon joined Primus onstage to jam, Claypool was so impressed with his ‘guitar chops’ that he decided he might like to work with him.
And so it came to pass. Lennon hung out at Claypool’s home Rancho Relaxo for a spell and they wrote and recorded the debut Claypool Lennon Delirium album Monolith of Phobos, released in 2016. A collage of prog rock, psychedelia, wackiness and social commentary, it reenergised Lennon’s career and was the freshest work Claypool had produced in some time. The pair released an EP of covers last year and have just released their sophomore album, South of Reality.
First track Little Fishes reminds me of another Claypool project Oysterhead, whose only album opens with a song called Little Faces, so perhaps the title is a salute. Lyrically, Little Fishes is mostly concerned with pollution, especially mercury contamination of the pelagic food chain. There are a couple of other “political” barbs in the song, though that are somewhat jarring.
The first single, Blood and Rockets is influenced by late era Beatles, especially with Lennon’s vocals. That might irk some but Claypool’s influence makes it great. Far out man! Title track South of Reality is a fine synthesis of both influences and chugs along nicely. The keyboard solo is an album highlight.
Boriska is the hardest they’ve ever rocked. It’s an amazing space rock jam and a bit of space rock is just what the doctor ordered for these dark days. I’d like to play the incredible last minute of this song to Greta Van Fleet fans.
Easily Charmed by Fools adds to the list of Claypool songs taking a shot at shonks and charlatans of all stripes and those taken in by their scams. It could be a Primus tune but Lennon’s keyboards and psychedelic guitar don’t let you forget who you’re listening to.
Amethyst Realm is a progressive rock epic clocking in at nearly eight minutes. Lennon’s guitar playing really shines on this one. It’s a good song but not the best on the album. Toady Man’s Hour is a ripper. It’s mad as a hatter. It bumps along propelled by bass and amusing melodies and lyrics about “a toady little man”. Cricket Chronicles Revisited takes up the tale of the prescription drug addicted cricket from the first album. Musically it’s much different, filled with Eastern strings and rhythms. Like Fleas ends the album in an aptly groovy style. It’s thematically appropriate too as it sees Mother Earth taking revenge on humanity. For all we’ve done to her, she’ll shake us off “like fleas on the back of a dog”
Monolith of Phobos, as good as it is, sounded like half an album of Claypool songs and half an album of Lennon songs. On this album they’ve managed much a synthesis and the songs are better for it. It’s looser and heavier than Monolith and I sure do hope they make it down here for a tour.