Monday, March 4 By: John Campbell
Legendary Primus Bassist Les Claypool and Sean Lennon (yeah, the son of John Lennon) of The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger have released their sophomore album titled South of Reality. The Claypool Lennon Delirium was formed from the brief downtime between Primus and TGSTT. Claypool and Lennon got together and created a progressive-psychedelic rock project and began producing technical and experimental music. This album is great and memorable addition to the contemporary genre of psychedelic rock.
South of Reality kicks right off with these psychedelic rock ideas blended with progressive rock. The sound of this album will make you nostalgic for the legendary psychedelic rock bands of the 80s. The vocals throughout this album take a few different styles, sounding like a mix of Geddy Lee and Jeff Lynne in the song “Little Fishes”, and other times sounding like Pink Floyd or Primus. This is to be expected given the lineup of the band. But I do have to say, that both Claypool and Lennon know how to create new and engaging material in a genre that doesn’t have a lot of room left for experimentation. In the title track “South of Reality” the rhythm, lyricism and vocal style are super unorthodox and it actually benefits the track more than you’d expect. The thing about these guys is that they have the perfect sense of humor for these stylistic approaches and lyricism to thrive. In the track “Easily Charmed By Fools” you have this grooving progressive track that’s commenting on Tinder and relationships in the modern world and applying some dry satire to them. It works, and a part of me doubted that it would. My absolute favorite track on this album is “Blood And Rockets: Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons – Movement II, Too The Moon”. The musical ideas, progressive themes and melodies are a noticeable notch above the rest of the album. I’ve fallen in love with the sound and technical prowess demonstrated in this song. From the chorus and the instrumentals to the vocal effects, everything about this track was just intoxicating.
Claypool likes to indulge in his ability to shred on a bass, and you will hear that all throughout this album. The basslines lead and are supplemented by the other instruments, this is something you can feel in almost every track. “Amethyst Realm” is introduced with a bassline I could honestly see being written by Tool’s Justin Chancellor. In this track, there’s a more atmospheric and relaxing mood being set, that didn’t do much for me right up until the instrumental break that added a lot of value to a track that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. That brings me to “Toady Man’s Hour”, another one of my favorite tracks. This track grooved and rocked right from the start with some progressive ideas sprinkled in. The lyrical content of this song doesn’t take itself seriously and gives off such a fun vibe. I would describe this track as something that Frank Zappa would show me, and it is the most Primus sounding song off this album. The track “Cricket Chronicles Revisited: Part I, Ask Your Doctor – Part II, PsydeEffects” also comes to mind when I want to talk about the vibes of this record. The musical style and the progressive writing in this track make for another top tier song on the album. The instrumental break and all the stylistic approaches in this song make this a high point. Also the outro is hilarious, definitely don’t skip this track.
Now, the production of this album is what makes it work. Without the ability to mix these effects and cascading instruments throughout the tracks, this album would fall flat on its face as ‘hippie noise’. It doesn’t. The production is really solid, I never feel as if parts are too shallow or hidden, and the vocal effects mesh with the other instruments very well. The only thing I’d argue doesn’t add anything to this record is the drums. They always just feel like they’re present, but not involved as much as the other parts. It doesn’t take away from the production or sound, but it adds almost nothing. I believe that having a bass guitar leading a lot of these tracks helped the production find competence, because a lot of the focused shredding parts that Claypool plays need to come out on or around the top of the mix, and they always do. Finding a balance with lows in psychedelic music can prove to be difficult with layers and layers of effects and reverb, but South of Reality does this without sounding over-produced. Psychedelic music often relies on effects in a studio, but Claypool and Lennon struck an excellent balance, and it comes through in a confident way in this record.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium has once again delivered a solid LP to file into the psychedelic rock genre. If there’s anything that Claypool and Lennon have proven from this project, it’s that they know how to make progressive psychedelic rock a competent sub-genre. South of Reality has excellent humor, mixing and cohesion, making it a great album to pick up between Primus hiatuses.
Favorite Tracks: Blood And Rockets: Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons – Movement II, Too The Moon, Toady Man’s Hour, Cricket Chronicles Revisited: Part I, Ask Your Doctor – Part II, Psyde Effects
Least Favorite Track: Boriska