Fun! Eccentricity! Experimentation! Swooshy noises! Unapologetic eclecticism!
We could be talking about the wonder years of UK psychedelic pop, but we are not. Those descriptors, and more, belong to twenty-first century outfit The Claypool Lennon Delirium whose second album—South of Reality—was released in February 2019.
And let it be known that this record is a four-side blast of psychedelic space rockin’ prismatic progressive pop.
From the mercury tinkles and distorted voices that introduce the first song, “Little Fishes”, Les Claypool’s elastic bassline (with just a whiff of “Norwegian Wood”) leads us into a song that has a classic 60s palette but an updated feel. Throughout the album, the nasal vocals certainly evoke Sean Lennon’s dad, but never creepily. It’s both homage and an extension of a golden era in pop music. What Claypool and Lennon—who wrote the songs and played all the instruments—manage to do is take the juggling balls of sixties psychedelia, paint one day-glo colours, torch one for blazing vapour trails and dip the last in lysergic tea. That they juggle these so adeptly into a joyful solar system of songs is jaw-dropping.
It’s fun to spot the references—a glorious “Sun king” harmony, a Keith Emerson synth solo, a splash of “Taxman” guitar chords—yet it would be a mistake to think of this as pastiche. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, a multi-coloured kite that flies on the imaginations of these two inventive and massively talented musicians.
Favourite tracks include the title track, the sneering drive of “Easily charmed by fools” (with a fuzz-drenched coda), and “Boriska”, an entertaining update of those 60s name songs (in particular, Bulldog Breed’s “Austin Osmanspare”) that also boasts a great guitar solo in the fade. But perhaps the song that thrilled me most on repeated spins was the perfect melding of psychedelic and progressive tropes in “Amethyst realm”. Sonically detailed, cleverly constructed, and riding a simple but catchy melody/chorus, this extended piece truly captures the progressive spirit of the early seventies.
Can our organs of hearing smile? If so, this contemporary album has certainly brought a broad grin to these jaded ears. You might like to give it a try; I reckon it’ll work for music lovers of any age. And of course there is the bonus of very pretty vinyl too.