Published on 23rd June 2016
Claypool Lennon Delirium – The Monolith Phobos
Imagine..a Lennon singing to deep bass grooves from Pink Floyd. That is The Claypool Lennon Delirium in a nutshell. The Beatles meet Pink Floyd.
Now I know, if Sean Lennon were to read this, he would be taken aback by the comparison, but it is not meant to be a bone of contention, rather a complement.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium have not copied the geniuses whose shoulders they stand upon. No, they pay tribute by including sound bites of remembrance to some of the best music ever made. Then, they build upon these magnificent works of the past with innovative interpretations from the next generation. This album represents a generational shift towards creating the new classics of the future.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium is made up of Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, from the band Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger; and Les Claypool, bassist and band leader of Primus. The two decided to bring together their musical experience to create something new, “After a successful summer tour, pairing Primus with Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger”. Lennon and Claypool share lead and backing vocals throughout this masterpiece, usually alternating lead between songs. Lennon handles the lead guitar, Mellotron, auto harp, and drum sounds while Claypool plays the bass guitar, upright bass, some Mellotron and some drums.
The Monolith of Phobos opens like the Pink Floyd classic Astronomy Domine, first slow, then rapidly repeating plucked electric bass guitar, with eerie reverbed guitars jutting and bouncing in and out of the soundscape to create an extraterrestrial–like atmosphere that only masters of space rock could have created. It really sounds like what you might imagine walking up to the Phobos Monolith might feel like.
Angelic female voices appear, as from a Star Trek movie, Mellotron blending comfortably with the deep bass and electric guitars as Claypool sings the opening lyric; “The Monolith of Phobos, it stares Buzz in the eye”. Yes, Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, mentioned the monolith: “We should visit the moon of Mars, there’s a monolith there, a very unusual structure on this little potato shaped object that revolves around Mars once every seven hours”.
Lennon and Claypool create a vivid world which transports the listener; “Riddles bursting from the seams raise passion in the eye that gleams”, “And questions more than answers rise like cream”. Back to space, with adventures and discoveries to be made. Welcome to the delirium!
The next two tracks form a small suite, Cricket and the Genie (Movement I, The Delirium) opens with rattling, then galloping bass guitar followed by Lennon’s first vocal; “What the doctor said could never be forgotten”, “Son don’t you know that there’s a pill for every problem. In this little magic bottle that’s filled with love”. Well, you can guess where the lyrics are going but the music continues to sound like a perfect match between The Beatles and classic Floyd, psychedelic and full of White Album power chords. The Mellotron work is fantastic…especially when the lyrics end and the two magicians set off on a jam.
Crickets and deep bass transition into the next song of the short suite, Cricket and the Genie (Movement I, Oratorio Di Cricket), which is an almost completely instrumental super power groove that will bring back memories of the end of I Am the Walrus, only instead of “Everybody’s got one, everybody’s got one” we hear the two vocalists sing “You oughta try it, you really oughta try it”, with a “la la” accompaniment similar to something you might hear from the soundtrack of a Tim Burton movie.
Mr. Wright is a song for anyone who appreciates British humour. “That good old fine upstanding Mr. Wright” is actually a peeping Tom, the music opening with deep bass that would make Yes’ Chris Squire cry tears of joy. The musical equivalent of Benny Hill goes lustfully on his way from “creeping, creeping, through the night, to watch her dance” to become the “dirty bastard” who is involved in much more nefarious deeds. The music is interesting but overshadowed by the story.
Boomerang Baby opens with a bass guitar bent backwards sound that will bring back memories of the 6-minute mark of Yes’ Starship Trooper, and beyond. The lyrics describe a modern girl dependent on cellular phone conversation and information with a heavy GPS dependence. They may also point to a growing trend of Millenials returning home to live with their parents, who still communicate face to face; babies who boomerang back to the nest. Any way you interpret the lyrics, it’s modern with cool sounds taken from the past and more deep bass than you really deserve. One of my favourites, that bass will have you missing “the Fish” even more.
Breath of a Salesman could be taken at face value as a statement on the free enterprise marketing system, or it may be a commentary on people who don’t know how to mind their own business…period. That plucking bass chord that irritatingly finds its way into every other line of the song sounds like a metal hook being poked at someone. The effect is superb.
Captain Lariat has a cool lead and bass guitar opening, along with a cosmic rain drum, Mellotron and other drums. Best song opening since the first track, long and accompanied by the sounds of the sea and gulls. The lyrics, on the other hand, sound like the perfect foil for “The Most Annoying Person” in the world. I can think of a certain politician that might fit the bill, but this is a captain after all – “Although he has never held commission, commandeered a rescue mission. In his mind he’s above the cut”; “He’s seen it on reality television”; “Never concerned about the effort or the money that he’s spent”. The lyrics are some of my favourite on the album, the Beatles–like vocal harmonies never better than on this track. The music that takes over after the lyrics is proof that this band has the ability to jam and would be great to see live. The nice added ending is something I will not spoil… only mention for curiosity’s sake.
Ohmerica is my favourite song on the album. That cool opening bass and electric guitar groove, Mellotron and cross chord wandering is just magnificent. The dark refrain, with bass, “Ohmerica”, with interwoven ’60s era Mellotron is just excellent. It must be heard to be appreciated. An “Orwellian” America is described in detail; now all you have to do is choose whether it is a country controlled by the government or the corporations. “As we’re multiplying, the world’s on the brink. And if you don’t like it, well you can just leave”; “We know when you’re sleeping and when you’re awake. But if you’ve been good, you need not be afraid”. I won’t say any more but the best is yet to come. Best lyrics on the album, the music matching the high standard.
Oxycontin Girl is another favourite of mine, not for the lyrics, which are interesting, but more for the music which is totally immersive. It opens with deep bass and a Spanish guitar reminiscent of Robbie Kreiger’s Doors anthem, Spanish Caravan. Unfortunately it is not as long or in depth. Then we get the story from lead vocalist Claypool – “So blue, so blue. She was an oxycontin girl”; “She was daddy’s little girl”. You can guess where the story goes from there, but the music, especially the lead guitar work and power bass, are amazing. That plucking bass guitar is perfect at annoying your ears and reminding them it’s there, a perfect earworm feature that keeps the rhythm well.
Bubbles Burst has already caused its own share of controversy. Not the song so much as the video. Sean Lennon, the son of a famous celebrity, had access to some of the world’s most infamous celebrities. This track explores one of those relationships, with Michael Jackson and specifically his famous chimp, Bubbles. The lyrics tell the story with many Beatles-like reminders, including the dream–like vocals and music which permeated many Beatles classics like Across the Universe. The guitar licks throughout remind me so much of My Guitar Gently Weeps and others from the White Album era. Yes, I do understand the controversy, and I agree it may not be the best thing to talk about someone after they’re gone, but Sean obviously felt this story needed to be told. I will not give away the plot, but here is a sample of the lyrics: “In 1983, in a Texas facility. He was just a few months old when they told him he was sold”; “They flew the primate pet upon a private jet. And off to Neverland where he met the impish man”. By far my least favourite track here, but I understand that some stories must be revealed for the world to hear.
There’s No Underwear in Space brings us to the close of the album and I hope, points us in the direction for the band’s future. It is a look back at the wonder of The Dark Side of the Moon in all its splendour. Yes, though his father was a Beatle, Sean understood that one of the best albums of the 70s, besides all of the Beatles’, was Dark Side. By the spacey vibes Les has been putting down with Primus and his other bands, I am sure he is a fan as well. But then again, who isn’t?
It is an interesting song title, and I’m sure they will be happy you noticed. When you realize it is credited to none other than George Lucas, it will make you love it even more. Lucas once responded “There’s no underwear in space”, to Carrie Fisher’s request that she wear a bra under her “slave girl” costume in Star Wars, Return of the Jedi.
You will hear so many reminders of the wonder of The Dark Side of the Moon, that you will wonder, why didn’t they just cover it. And that, I guess, is the rub. Back to space… where prog is king!
Sit back and spend a little under an hour with the future of prog rock as expressed by the next generation of a rock legend.
01. The Monolith of Phobos (4:41)
02. Cricket and the Genie (Movement I, The Delirium) (3:52)
03. Cricket and the Genie (Movement I, Oratorio Di Cricket) (4:16)
04. Mr. Wright (4:21)
05. Boomerang Baby (5:48)
06. Breath of a Salesman (3:27)
07. Captain Lariat (6:00)
08. Ohmerica (5:09)
09. Oxycontin Girl (5:03)
10. Bubbles Burst (4:10)
11. There’s No Underwear in Space (3:28)
Total Time – 51:12
Sean Lennon – Lead & Backing Vocals, Lead Guitar, Mellotron, Auto Harp & Drums
Les Claypool – Bass Guitar, Upright Bass, Mellotron & Drums
Record Label: Prawn Song
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 3rd June 2016