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The Claypool Lennon Delirium Sets Out for Sea and Space on the Jam Cruise

Claypool Lennon Delirium
Claypool Lennon Delirium Courtesy photo
It generally goes unappreciated that John Lennon's son is making mind-frying experimental rock with a fantastically weird virtuoso bassist.

We're talking about the Claypool Lennon Delirium, the match-made-in-heaven super duo of Les Claypool and Sean Lennon. After forming in 2015 and debuting with the deeply creepy single "Mr. Wright," they've released two albums — Monolith of Phobos (2016) and last year's South of Reality and 2017 EP Lime and Limpid Green.

If you've ever wondered what the Beatles would sound like as a spacey prog-rock band, the Claypool Lennon Delirium are happy to sate your curiosity. After all, the group plays an eight-minute, acid-soaked live version of "Tomorrow Never Knows" which more than does justice to the original. And who knows? They might throw it in their setlist for the Jam Cruise, which leaves from Miami to set sail for the Bahamas and Mexico on Tuesday, January 7 for an excursion that'll last through Sunday, January 12. Les Claypool's Bastard Jazz is also on the bill, along with Galactic, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Lettuce, Lotus, and more.

Needless to say, Sean Lennon is no ordinary psych-rocker. He's the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the godson of Elton John, and a lifelong musician who's played in bands with his mother as well as in the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger with his longtime partner, Charlotte Kemp Muhl. As both a singer and an instrumentalist, he's truly his father's musical heir. The timbre of his voice is spot on, and with the Claypool Lennon Delirium, his music takes the same sardonic tone that colored so many of his father's songs with the Beatles.
One notable difference between the two musicians: As a guitar player, Sean out-shreds John, and the vast majority of guitarists, by a considerable margin. (For all his accolades, John remains somewhat unappreciated for his influence as a guitarist: Never recognized as an overly technical player, he was a sonic pioneer who achieved an extreme-for-the-time fuzz tone on the 1968 speaker-buster "Revolution" and penned some of the most memorable rhythm guitar parts of all time.) Sean, on the other hand, is prone to taking long, spacey solos, and has clearly absorbed the influence of classic prog bands like King Crimson.

That style lines right up with the highly technical bass noodling of Claypool, the mad-scientist-slash-rambling-hillbilly frontman of Primus. (The San Francisco-based band created the theme song for South Park, and also has a vast and deeply weird catalog that — depending on who you ask — is worth your time.) The Mad Hatter stuff really comes out in the end of the the band's two-part masterpiece, "Cricket and the Genie," when Claypool repeats "You really oughta try it" as the carnivalesque backing instrumental bends and warps like a nightmarish house of mirrors.

Claypool and Lennon take turns leading vocals and backing each other up. In the live setting, there's jamming and improvisation and so many solos. The overall vibe is akin to taking the dark, hypnotic, sort-of-heavy side of the Beatles shown on "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and stretching it out to infinity. Claypool's signature slap-happy licks interweave throughout, and Lennon's vocals are doused with effects that make him sound underwater, or on a mountaintop, or like he's on a different astral plane altogether — just like his father once did.

The Claypool Lennon Delirium on the Jam Cruise. With Galactic, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Lettuce, and others. Tuesday, January 7, through Sunday, January 12, on the MSC Divina;
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Howard Hardee is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, he has a BA in journalism and writes stories about music, outdoor adventures, politics, and the environment for alt-weeklies across the country. He is an aficionado of fine noises and has a theremin in his living room.