As audiences had already seen 2016’s Monolith of Phobos, in one another, Les Claypool and Sean Lennon found kindred spirits. Seemingly upon meeting each other, they recognized a familiar cultural shorthand, each growing up on a healthy diet of prog rock and psychedelia. Thus, it seemed only natural for a musical project, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, to be forged out of their budding friendship. The experimental psych-rock duo’s undeniable chemistry can be charted throughout their sophomore effort, South of Reality, even if their ambitions often outreach their capabilities.
From the springy, space-age trip of ”Blood And Rockets: Movement I, Saga Of Jack Parsons – Movement II, Too The Moon” to the ghastly, melodic echoes of ”Boriska,” the record is filled with lengthy, expansive tracks, often blossoming into swirling instrumental jam sessions. Claypool and Lennon have a palpable friendship which culminates in an intricate, psychedelic fantasy landscape.
At its most cohesive, there is an inescapable joy to the album, as the listeners stand witness to what can often feel like best buds cranking up King Crimson records in their basement and trying to play along with the rhythm. Even simply on a vocal level, the pair compliment each other nicely, melding their collective stylings into a single dominating force as on the eerie, driving stride of “South of Reality,” the bouncy funk groove of ”Toady Man’s Hour,” and the bluesy expansion of guitar hero showcase ”Amethyst Realm.” Many bands spend entire careers striving for this sort of effortless synchronization.
Even in the heights of their work apart from one another, Les Claypool and Sean Lennon have never been overly impressive wordsmiths, and South of Reality doesn’t find them reaching any new accomplishments in poignant lyricism. Where the passages truly falter are when they are taking stabs at the younger generation. On tracks such as “Little Fishes” (“When will the youth get on its hind legs? / Is the Golden Goose laying 3D printed eggs?”) and ”Easily Charmed by Fools” (“She’s easily charmed by fools / She likes to swipe right for pretty boys on Tinder / Desperate measures lead to desperate situations”), they are flirting with language and technology that they don’t fully understand, and so their cranky jabs never have the bite they intend them to. This half-brained cultural examination often puts the listener on the lookout for lines like “back in my day” and “you kids get off my lawn.” However, they manage to land a few potent, well-supported messages, as with their scathing take on the current state of mental health treatment on ”Cricket Chronicles Revisited: Part I, Ask Your Doctor – Part II, Psyde Effects.”
Musically, South of Reality benefits from the artistic background of its principal players, with Claypool carrying over his bass guitar prowess from his tenure with Primus and Lennon unable to outrun the legacy of his father’s Beatles sound. There’s a lot to like here, as skill and passion converge into enthusiastic celebration. While they may not always find the right words necessary in order to properly get their point across, it’s difficult not to engage yourself once they get cooking.