Beanpole’s All My Kin arrives with one helluva backstory. Sometime in the ‘80s Les Claypool began gathering a series of songs that were less than commercially viable. Influenced by The Residents, They Might Be Giants, Frank Zappa and (maybe) Captain Beefheart, the project was conceived as a way to create music without adherence to genre or concern for anything approaching mainstream acceptance. The sessions stretched on for some time, with Primus guitarist Larry LaLonde joining in beside Derek Greenberg and Adam Gates of Spent Poets. (Gates is familiar to Primus stalwarts as Bob Cock or Bob C. Cock.) By the dawn of the ‘90s Beanpole had accumulated a significant amount of material but the recordings had yet to see the light of day. Near the end of the Clinton years, legend has it, Claypool gathered cassettes, DATs and gumption and entered a mastering studio with hopes that he could ultimately release them via his own Prawn Song imprint, but the recordings were rejected outright by executives who felt Beanpole had no commercial potential.

Claypool reportedly set the project aside until 2016 when, touring with Sean Lennon as The Claypool Lennon Delirium, the former played some of the tapes for his new partner. Lennon, loving a twisted idea when he heard it, suggested he’d issue the recordings via his own Chimera label. So, is the world ready for Beanpole? Yes. It has been, at least since the ’60s.

The music is avant-garde to a degree but not so much so that anyone who owns the first five Primus albums or more than one Henry Cow record can’t handle. Tinged with psychedelia, the songs, which follow some sort of loose thread about rural types whose family tree barely branches and who love all manner of vegetable, etc., songs are rarely more far afield than The Mothers of Invention’s We’re Only In It For The Money or the XTC side project Dukes Of Stratosphear. Along the way there are nods to the aforementioned Henry Cow, The Beatles (during the acid years) and the pre-King Crimson Giles, Giles Fripp.

Ironically, some of this material is far more palatable than mid-‘90s Primus, and there’s a cheerful insanity through much of the music that masks the grimmer, satirical lyrics. “Pumpkin Pickin’ Time,” for instance, hints at poverty and hunger, while “Cousins” is darker than it seems at first blush.

One is frequently reminded of former Zappa guitarist Mike Keneally’s myriad albums, each awash with a variety of musical peculiarities that hold the listener in rapt attention as they try to puzzle it all out. Have you stepped into another dimension or are you just now recognizing the strangeness of this one? Such are the questions that swirl around while you wind your way through All My Kin.
Still, this was never going to be a hit, unless there’s a chart for records played at suburban LSD parties. Truth be told, the backstory and the artwork may be more interesting than the music. As loveable as it can be, it e record doesn’t exactly add up to Trout Mask Replica II. There are moments when weird-for-weird’s-sake takes over, and a joke that was mildly amusing a half hour ago becomes threadbare after the third or fourth time. (“Embryo,” which appears late in the sequence, comes off as nearly identical to some of the pranks we hear in the first five tracks.)

It’s all good fun but one would rather hear a new Claypool Lennon Delirium or Primus record. Still, there’s enough weirdness to tickle the twisted synapses of the progressive rock lover’s mind and warm the heart of the avant guardian. Maybe that’s good enough. Maybe, too, the sheer obscurity and absurdity of this music is just enough to get some kid in the heartland excited about scouring the record bins for strange, twisted music that has slipped through the cracks of time.

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