There is a huge rock on one of Mars’ moons that has been notable and intriguing to astronomers for some time, it is called the Monolith of Phobos. The two rock all-stars who put together this most recent album didn’t just haphazardly choose this as a title; Sean Lennon and Les Claypool have made a throwback space rock album in the vein of early Pink Floyd as The Claypool Lennon Delirium.
The two came together while touring last year and clicked. In the studio Les had Sean play both guitar and drums which keeps things from falling into a Claypool dominated rhythm section with only added guitar flairs. Perhaps most satisfying is that over the course of Monolith of Phobos there is a real musical partnership taking root.
The album displays its outer space waves right away with the title track floating out easily without the meaty Claypool bass tying it to earth, but that gorgeous bass doesn’t stay soft for long. “Cricket and the Genie (Movement I, The Delirium)” adds in the chugging low end as worlds collide before “Cricket and the Genie (Movement II, Oratorio Di Cricket)” provides musical trippyness with more strings and fluid movements; the full opening salvo hits home. Things are more up and down from there. When the duo keeps the dreaminess flowing bright such as on “Captain Lariat” they get loose by diving into freakouts and gorgeous harmonies and “Ohmerica” touches on modern day paranoia/consumership over keyboard flourishes and distorted percussion.
Some album standouts are the eastern-tinged-with-darkness-lurking “Boomerang Baby” and the glorious lethargic album ending “Bubbles Burst” into “There’s No Underwear In Space”. The finale is a showcase of crisp yet adventurous playing mixed with fun abnormal lyrics of a certain title monkey getting shipped to Neverland. All of these tracks tap into the best of what these oddball players have to offer; unique musical phrasing, powerful rhythmic undertones and a willingness to explore the weird.
When the low points arrive, they are focused around the words/singing and disrupt the vibe of the overall album. Lyrically things run afoul on the very Primus like tracks “Oxycontin Girl” (self explanatory) and “Mr Wright” which bangs with power but dips into lyrics about setting up perverted piss cameras that pulls the listener from whatever space jam they were isolated in directly down into the literal toilet.
Who knows if this partnership will last past this offering and summer tour, as both artists have multiple projects cooking, however the Monolith of Phobos has risen. Fans of quirky, spacey rock, should be happy to freak out around its sonic weirdness and grandeur.