Music review: Eccentric rock from The Claypool Lennon Delirium and Mercury Rev reinvents a lost 1960s classic

South of Reality is duo Sean Ono Lennon and Les Claypool's second full-length album.
South of Reality is duo Sean Ono Lennon and Les Claypool's second full-length album.PHOTO: ATO RECORDS
Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited is indie/psychedelic rock stalwarts Mercury Rev's ninth album.
Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited is indie/psychedelic rock stalwarts Mercury Rev's ninth album.PHOTO: BELLA UNION

PSYCHEDELIC ROCK

SOUTH OF REALITY

The Claypool Lennon Delirium

ATO Records

4 stars

INDIE ROCK/COUNTRY

BOBBIE GENTRY'S THE DELTA SWEETE REVISITED

Mercury Rev

Bella Union

4 stars


A union between the son of a Beatles legend and one of rock's most eccentric bassists has resulted in one of the year's kookiest rock albums to date.

The Claypool Lennon Delirium is the musical pairing of Sean Ono Lennon, the son of John Lennon and Japanese artist Yoko Ono, and Les Claypool, musician/novelist/director and prolific head of progressive/funk/metal veterans Primus.

South Of Reality, their second full-length album, sees the duo expand on the spacey, psychedelic sounds found on their 2016 debut Monolith Of Phobos, and 2017 EP, Lime And Limpid Green.

They complement each other, blending elements of garage rock, folk and Indian classical music into long and winding tunes. Lennon brings to the fore his late father's musically whimsical tendencies, his melodic prowess proving to be a perfect foil to Claypool's adroit basslines and experimental impulses.

In the lyrics, they oscillate between satirical takes on modern life and the bizarre.

Easily Charmed By Fools, with its percussive bass playing and lush vocal harmonies, is a critique on the post-truth world, one over-run by Tinder-daters and those "drawn to artificial light", while Little Fishes takes on issues such as single-sex bathrooms and the over-dependence on Wi-Fi.

The sprawling Blood And Rockets tells the stranger-than-fiction true tale of American rocket engineer Jack Parsons, a man known as much for his pioneering work in science as well as his involvement with the occult.

Less peculiar, but still as musically adventurous, is the latest and ninth album by indie/psychedelic rock stalwarts Mercury Rev. Instead of new and original songs, the band has decided to reinterpret the songs from The Delta Sweete, the severely underrated second album by folk/country singer-songwriter Bobbie Gentry first released in 1968.

Gentry is now recognised as a pioneering female singer-songwriter and Mercury Rev assembled a formidable line-up of contemporary women singers from the pop, country and alternative rock world to breathe new life into her songs.

The arrangements have been dramatically altered but the new versions are no less haunting than the originals. Multi-Grammy winner Norah Jones executes a dreamy rendering of Okolona River Bottom Band while Mornin' Glory, featuring Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier, is a rich chamber-pop exercise in the style of Burt Bacharach.

Rising country star Margo Price brings a fiery bluster to the otherwise ominous Sermon, promising divine retribution on the "long-tongued liar", the "midnight rider" and the "gambler, rambler, back-biter" as Tobacco Road, with Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfor, features a tension-building verse that gloriously erupts into a lush chorus.

And while Beth Orton's formidable voice rings out on Courtyard, it felt odd to have Lucinda William sing Ode To Billie Joe. That song came from Gentry's 1967 debut and not on The Delta Sweete but was probably included because it is the song most people know her for.