Hypnotic insanity, with wokeness
Famed Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary waited 30 years to express his dark humor and carnival sounds once again in a new solo album. Leary’s first album released in 1991, The History of Dogs, launched his solo musical career from the Butthole Surfers, combining his personal taste with a nuanced flare of woke ideology stemmed from modern society.
His new album, Born Stupid, is born out of a bizarre world, almost a descendant of the strange haze people find themselves in early 2021. Leary tackles issues like mass consumption, environmentalism and hypocrisy. The title track “Born Stupid” is written in more of a thesis statement manner, with the caveat of newfound musical taste. Leary said in a press release that the album is aptly named, saying, “It was born from a revelation I had while riding my bicycle that I am not as smart as I wish I was.”
This track, along with several others in this LP, contains the signature tune of twangy guitar picking and shadowy voice, which Leary is known for. “Born Stupid” has quite a bit of this twanginess, with an oddity in style of Frank Zappa, dare it to be said.
It seems as if Leary’s past in the Butthole Surfers has been suppressed. All of the aggression and punk in the DNA of his music career has been muzzled by acoustic strumming and kitschy compositions. It comes out slightly in the reimagined Butthole Surfers’ songs – as “The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave” is translated into “The Shah Revisited” and “The Adventures of Pee Pee the Sailor.” One is a dark reimagination of a sinister topic, while the other is a boasting sea shanty-like track of pure confusion.
Songs like “Do You Like To Eat A Cow” contain the trademark distinctness, with uncomfortable lyrics and looming farm sound effects. It seems too subtle, almost prone to clone vegans with its soundwaves. But the farm and the horror unite as one for a general listener’s discomfort. “Sugar is the Gateway Drug” is its inbred cousin, holding onto the soapbox leverage in a more direct fashion. Reverberating vocals make for a lucid sound.
In terms of climate change wokeness, “What Are You Gonna Do” is a pointer finger into the eyes of those who don’t speak up, meant for change as a species. Electronic fusions and sinister vocals make for an apocalyptic sound of horrifying proportions. To further the manufactured sounds of Leary’s music, “Thrown Away Freely” makes for a spacey tune, while “Gold Cap” is borderline psychedelic, almost sickening.
“Gary Floyd Revisited” is a tribute to the expressive frontman of the Austin-based punk group, The Dicks. Leary’s voice is so faded down that people are almost unable to hear him at all, though the acoustic strumming might make a good waiting room song, someday. Though the western-themed riff within “Mohawk Town” makes up for a lot of voids within this album. This song is uppity, rhythmic and pure Leary.
While his career as a Butthole Surfers guitarist may have brought him fame, it must be noted that a solo career isn’t for everyone. While his creativity is admired and acknowledged, Leary’s second-solo album Born Stupid takes imaginative music to an entirely different level of insanity.