The Claypool Lennon Delirium: South of Reality
ATO A little more than two years after their delightfully freaky debut, Sean Lennon and Les Claypool are back to filter the world’s idiocy through their candy-colored psych-rock kaleidoscope. South of Reality takes the warped playbook of Monolith of Phobos and doubles the intensity—it’s funkier, funnier, proggier and more dialed into the manic absurdity of our smartphone-addicted, post-fact culture. The title says it all: The album plays out like a dystopian fantasia, a blend of the depressingly dark and comically absurd, like Willy Wonka’s colorful “canoe ride through hell” scene adapted into a record. The duo document the story of Jack Parsons, the rocket scientist who moonlighted as an orgy-loving cult leader (the ridiculously catchy “Blood and Rockets,” a sort of funhouse mirror take on every late-‘60s Beatles song); criticize Americans’ tendency to shove mysterious medicines down our throats (the paranoid, Eastern-tinged “Cricket Chronicles Revisited”); and rant against dumbass Tinder-swipers, gun-toters and gullible televangelist donors (the wacky art-funk of “Easily Charmed by Fools,” a barrage of wicked bass and zooming synth). The duo remain natural sonic soul mates, able to shift seamlessly from, say, A Saucerful of Secrets -era Pink Floyd psychedelia to demented blues-rock— even from one verse to another. The circus concludes with the ironically cheerful bounce of “Like Fleas,” in which Mother Nature rids herself of those pesky humans via hurricanes and other natural disasters. It’s somewhere between an “Octopus’ Garden” utopia and a nuclear apocalypse—in the most jolting, entertaining way possible.