In what bassist and vocalist Les Claypool calls an approach to a psychedelic space rock record, Monolith Of Phobos is an alluring selection of vintage psych rock influences from the guitar, drums, and mind of Sean Lennon and the punchy, warped funk of Primus. As the second son of The Beatles’ John Lennon, Sean and Les effectively comprise a rock super-group with Claypool a bass disciple and the founder of a thriving rock band started in the ’80s as Primate. His loyal following suggests “Primus sucks!” as some sort of twisted humor and pledge to fandom. Claypool’s mystical forces could not sit idly by when Primus opted for a breather in 2016 as a band after touring with Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger, Lennon’s other project. The two began writing and recording instruments and vocals with the album’s sessions lasting roughly six weeks.
The foreboding opener, “Monolith Of Phobos,” features Claypool’s familiar, effected vocals setting the delirious tone of the album while the second and third track are a first and second movement of their own. “Cricket And The Genie (Movement I, The Delirium)” is a Beatles groove that takes take a progressive turn with bass and synth before a diminishing transition to the next track, “Cricket And The Genie (Movement II, Oratorio Di Cricket).” With some songs more inherently Lennon than others, the second movement is a Primus-like hypnosis with Claypool at the helm as he treads into his sweet spot of demented, space funk on “Mr. Wright,” playing between a clear head voice and whimsical, operatic lows.
“Boomerang Baby” comes as a bright blend of something between Blue Oyster Cult and the work of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and John Frusciante, and Claypool sings “Unless it’s pictures of the clique she doesn’t care for politics / Yet she admires all the traits that qualify a narcissist.” The next track, “Breath Of A Salesman,” has Primus written all over it with crawling guitar and a syncopated slap of the bass strings. The brooding beginning of “Captain Lariat” is then reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor as the track develops with more markedly Primus elements. Lennon’s sweet melodies are lysergic waypoints to dynamic jams. With a toolkit stemming from his father and Yoko, Claypool deems Lennon’s approach “a glorious freak stew.”
“Bubbles Burst” is a highlight on the second half of the record that slips into the instrumental finale, “There’s No Underwear In Space.” Somewhat angelic but mostly dark and empty, this sendoff is perhaps a haunting return from the delirium. The Claypool Lennon Delirium is a sensibly psychedelic Claypool and a rock prodigy in Lennon proving his prowess and knack for exploration. Though likely an acquired taste, scattered rock influences leave routes of accessibility to an album predicated on a new spin to old Primus while embracing the spontaneous creation of a new project.
Recommended If You Like: Primus, The Beatles, Tame Impala, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and John Frusciante
Recommended Tracks: 4 (Mr. Wright), 5 (Boomerang Baby), 2 (Cricket And The Genie (Movement I, The Delirium)), 6 (Breath Of A Salesman), 1 (Monolith Of Phobos)