Les Claypool is a busy man. Besides his day job as the brains behind the weird and wonderful American alt rock trio Primus, a quick bit of research shows that he has also made albums as a solo artist or with numerous bands - that currently means he has appeared in 11 other acts, including his solo ventures. That's without counting a myriad of other guest appearances on one-off tracks for other artists. His appearance here with The Claypool/Lennon Delirium adds to that list. “Hang on a minute”, I hear you cry - did you say “Lennon” just now? Yes I did, for the Lennon here is John’s youngest son Sean. As a Beatles fan, I was aware that John had put his career on hold early in Sean’s life, to make sure he didn’t miss out on fatherhood, the way he had with his elder son, Julian. So how did Sean Lennon, meet Les Claypool? Well it turns out that Lennon’s band, The Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger toured with Primus and the two got on well enough that they jammed together with results good enough for them to work further and make a full album - The Monolith of Phobos.
Following on from last year’s disappointing Primus album (Primus and The Chocolate Factory - based on the original sound track of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory), I settled down with little expectation, but to my surprise, this album is a marked step up from that. Lennon proves himself to be not only a fine guitarist but a very talented multi-instrumentalist. Songs like "Mr. Wright", with its dexterous bass line sound like they would fit on to any of the albums recorded earlier in Primus’ now lengthy career. Claypool is certainly the senior partner but Lennon does contribute some lead vocals and his voice fits well with Claypool’s oddball delivery. There is clearly some influence garnered from his mother but Lennon's songs (The Cricket and the Genie being an excellent example) are definitely not overshadowed by Claypool’s.
This album is a much more focused beast than one would expect, especially for one produced by two such acknowledged eccentrics. Claypool clearly revelling in Lennon’s abilities behind the kit by allowing the younger man to play the drums, whereas he would normally undertake skin-bashing duties on his solo efforts. The Monolith of Phobos is an album Claypool has needed to make for some time now and the success of it is in no small part down to Lennon's fantastic guitar playing. A lot of his recent albums feature very clever musical pieces and the usual amount of wackiness but unlike earlier works, there weren’t enough songs that would lodge themselves in your brain. This situation has been remedied, and in spades, with the likes of the aforementioned “Mr. Wright”, “Captain Lariat”, “Ohmerica” and “Oxycontin Girl” as good as anything Claypool as put his name to within the last 10 years.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium seems like the sort of project that won’t have much of a shelf-life, which is a shame seeing as this album is very good indeed. The usual caveat applies - this album will not win over the masses but for fans of Primus and Les Claypool, this is certainly up there with anything else he has put his name to. Besides, any album that finishes with an instrumental called “There’s No Underwear in Space” has got to be worth checking out!
Review by Adrian Grainger