In the late 1960s, Frank Zappa famously signed Alice Cooper’s original band to his label after seeing them clear out a club. According to Cooper, the fact that Zappa didn’t “get” the band’s music was actually what attracted him to it.
No such luck for Primus bandleader Les Claypool, who’s convinced that Mammoth Records abruptly dropped his Prawn Song label in the late ’90s after he presented Mammoth with recordings by a side project called Beanpole. “Unfortunately, experiments in life are often less than lucrative. I believe Mammoth grew weary of all the Petri dishes I kept slinging their way,” Claypool says.
But Beanpole’s music is now seeing the light of day as the album All My Kin, out Aug. 31. And much as Zappa did for Cooper, none other than Sean Lennon has opted to release the music on his own Chimera imprint some 34 years after its inception.
With songs spanning 1984-1999, All My Kin is something of a supergroup effort that features Claypool and his Primus bandmate Larry LaLonde, alongside Adam Gates and Derek Greenberg of fellow Bay Area outfit The Spent Poets, who resisted the early ’90s alternative revolution by sticking to a pop approach before themselves getting dropped by Geffen.
In recent comments in the press, the members of Beanpole have made it sound like All My Kin doesn’t come within a country mile of either The Spent Poets’ polish or Primus’ structural sophistication. It’s an understatement to say that the foursome had a loose attitude toward recording, encouraging each other to pick up instruments they weren’t especially comfortable playing and opting to keep mistakes.
But even when doing their best to approximate the demented yammerings of what the band calls “mutant hillbillies” who can barely play, the members of Beanpole couldn’t hide their chops very well. On “Cousins,” for example, the group almost can’t help but deliver luminous (albeit warped) Beatles-style harmonies and a seamless accordion-guitar-bass arrangement over a drum groove with enough acoustic crackle and pop that it wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the heyday of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. The song takes listeners into a world where, to put it charitably, everyone’s related to everyone else — a satirical take on “family values.”
“If ever America was in need of a catchy requiem,” says Lennon, “now is that time, and here is that tune.”
Listen to the song below, premiering exclusively on Billboard.