Inside The Claypool Lennon Delirium’s Darkly Psychedelic Debut, ‘Monolith Of Phobos’

first_imgIn the summer of 2015, Les Claypool and the boys of Primus embarked on a tour with Sean Lennon and his band The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger. During this successful summer stint, Sean Lennon (son of Beatle/music legend, John Lennon) and Les Claypool (lead of Primus/modern day bass extraordinaire) took quite a liking to one another. Both of their unique sounds complimented each other in a refreshing yet unexpected way, and throughout the summer tour, Lennon frequently made his way onto the stage, often joining in with Claypool for a mind-bending jam during the Primus fan-favorite, “Southbound Pachyderm.” A full-blown Claypool/Lennon collaboration seemed inevitable, and during the subsequent holiday season, the two modern psychedelic pioneers hunkered down in Claypool’s Sonoma County home known as “Rancho Relaxo” near Occidental, California to record some songs. The result is Monolith of Phobos; ‘Phobos’ being the largest of the two moons of Mars. Named after the Greek god of the same name, Phobos was known as “the personification of horror.” Monolith of Phobos is a damn-near picture perfect psychedelic masterpiece of unbridled proportions. It is truly a spellbinding clashing of musical forces that is impossible to overlook.So, let’s take a look. Be sure to listen along to this one-of-a-kind release.The title track begins the record as many Claypool compositions do, trickling in with eerie loop pedal effects combined with the dins of squawks and squeals from Lennon’s electric guitar, creating a psychedelic soundscape that twists and turns the listener into oblivion. As the tempestuous intro dissipates, Claypool begins with a bass sound harking back to the introduction of “To Defy the Laws of Tradition” from the 1990 Primus album Frizzle Fry. As Lennon joins in with his sincerely trippy guitar artistry, it’s immediately clear that something special is happening here; something new, something fresh, something genuine. The opening title track is without a doubt, one of the most melodic pieces we’ve ever heard from Claypool. It’s got a little bit of “Walrus” and a little bit of “Pachyderm;” as if Magical Mystery Tour and Tales from the Punchbowl had a baby. It seems the Beatle-esque sensibilities that the younger Lennon has genetically brought to the table have begun to rub off on Les. His parts are deep yet concise, and seem to be written more for the song, rather than having the bass lead the way. It’s a clean approach which translates into something stunningly gorgeous! The following track, and the album’s first single, “Cricket and the Genie” comes in two movements: Movement 1 “The Delirium” and Movement 2 “Oratorio De Cricket.” It’s an upbeat song that tells a metaphorical tale of a cricket, a genie and a bottle of prescription drugs — even with a flute solo to boot! The opening bass riff is quite similar to “Fisticuffs” from Primus’ 1997 The Brown Album, and its certainly not the only time on the record we hear some similarities from previous Claypool compositions. In no way is this a negative critique, but additionally, the ninth track “Oxycontin Girl” begins with a bass riff strikingly comparable with the Primus classic “Here Come The Bastards.” (But then again, so does “Last Salmon Man” from Green Naugahyde)Moving on, the album’s second single is a perverse parable of sexual deviance, ironically titled “Mr. Wright.” “He’s creeping through the night, to ease his lustful plight. He sets up little cameras ‘cause he likes to watch you pee. What a dirty little bastard he can be.” Here is Claypool doing what he does best; creating twisted tales built around average, everyday characters — but with warped and sinister back-stories. Of course, and as always, good ol’ Les can’t help but pepper in a clever pun like “Something’s going wrong with Mr. Wright” before the song’s end. The Millennial-critical fifth track “Boomerang Baby” unquestionably sounds like a Lennon composition, and is where his father’s voice emanates most prominently in his vocal performance. Additionally, it’s hard to imagine the politically-charged “Ohmerica” happening without Lennon’s Beatle-esque influence on the project. “Ohmerica” comes across like a 21st century Sgt. Pepper with a highly political message focusing on government secrecy and mass surveillance. The balance is consistent throughout Monolith of Phobos. When the musicianship clearly comes from the mind of Claypool, Lennon always compensates perfectly, and vice versa. In “Breath of a Salesman,” Lennon’s playing could even be compared with that of Larry ‘Ler’ LaLonde, in his uncanny ability to fill that ever-so impossible niche required to play alongside a screwball prodigy of the bass-guitar such as Les Claypool. “Captain Lariat,” yet another creepy tale of a seemingly ordinary man with a hidden dark side, in this case, a dentist with an affinity for nitrous oxide (among other nefarious extracurricular activities), is another example of this musical kinship. As the song concludes, we hear a flubbed take of Lennon noodling on his guitar while mimicking the notes as he plucks them. “Keep going” says a reassuring Claypool, encouraging Lennon to continue the take. It’s an interesting tidbit left in the mix for us to enjoy, and even further reveals the warm, almost family-like rapport between the two. To wrap it all up are perhaps the two most impressive pieces of music on the entire record. “Bubbles Burst” > “There’s No Underwear In Space” are conjoined masterworks of psychedelic wizardry. Straight out of the musical realms of Pink Floyd, this is where the duo’s passion for psychedelia shines on like a crazy diamond. Lennon takes the lead for most of “Bubbles Burst,” as Claypool joins with his calmly cascading backing vocals. What’s even more notable is the restraint coming from Claypool. It’s near impossible to cite a better example of this kind of straightforwardness exuding from Claypool’s playing. As the final puzzle piece is set in place, we sail off into the distance as the orchestration soars and Claypool churns away on his upright bass. Suddenly… it’s over.There’s really no other way to put it, folks: you truly can’t get much better than this. Sean Lennon and Les Claypool are a psychedelic match made in heaven. Monolith of Phobos stands above most of the psychedelic music that has been recorded over the last several decades, and each of these songs is the proof in that pudding. This magnum opus hits shelves this coming Friday, June 3rd, with the band’s tour beginning one day later. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll go out and buy this record as soon as humanly possible. You won’t regret it. Come along — indulge in the Delirium!– By Joseph Conlonlast_img read more