Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers) Strikes His Freak Out Again On ‘Born Stupid’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Paul Leary’s first solo album, The History of Dogs, was released way back in 1991 and now the follow-up Born Stupid arrives during the strange haze of early 2021. The Butthole Surfers guitarist waited 30 years to use his dark humor, creepy carnival vibes, and orchestrated sweeping sounds to address everything from mass consumption to the burning earth to your diet.

The title track/thesis statement is a warped classic country lament, coating the album with the caveat that Leary and company would love to help out, but they are just born stupid. Gorgeous reverberating backing vocals add to fun, but Leary (to the contrary of the title refrain) is smart, addressing major issues using humor and odd music in the vein of Frank Zappa.

Freak out farm sound effects (along with phrases like “eating the penis of a pig”) contorts “Do You Like To Eat A Cow” into children’s music designed to indoctrinate an army of future vegans. The circus calliope cautionary tale of “Sugar is the Gateway Drug” spells it out directly while “What Are You Gonna Do” asks the title question around spacey electronics, sludge metal riffs, and evil vocal effects that deal with impending cataclysmic climate change. 

While Leary’s punk/aggressive roots are restrained with acoustic guitars being strummed, the weirdness still flows as he reimagines early Butthole Surfers songs “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave” as “The Shah Revisited” and “The Adventures of Pee Pee The Sailor” as a sea shanty. Leary also pays tribute, on “Gary Floyd Revisited”, to the Dicks outspoken frontman around the prettiest music on the album. The spaghetti western ramblings of “Mohawk Town” could deal with race relations…or be just a Mad Max-inspired rumble, tough to tell the difference.    

At first blush, these tunes can come off as flippant acid trip warbling’s, but like all good subversive offerings, there is substance underneath as “Throw Away Freely” amps up the orchestration to operatic levels when dealing with evictions and the housing crisis. Discussing modern problems with winking dark humor around odd musical musings, Paul Leary’s Born Stupid strikes the right tone in today’s bizarre world.       

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