Paul Leary – Born Stupid – Limited Edition, Gratuitous Red, Vinyl, LP, Shimmy-Disc, 2021
Paul Leary issued his debut solo album The History Of Dogs in 1991. And now, thirty years later he’s releasing the follow up Born Stupid. Thirty years may seem like an oddly excessive length of time between albums, but that’s apropos, as nearly all the highlights of Leary’s legendary career have been odd and excessive. Leary is best known as guitarist/vocalist for the infamous psychedelic noise rock band Butthole Surfers. The Butthole Surfers’ aggressively surrealist recordings and live shows have become mythology in the world of underground music. The headline of a 2016 profile in Vice magazine summed this legacy up neatly, stating the “Butthole Surfers Were the Epitome of Every Hell-Raising Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend You Ever Heard.” Beyond the group’s extreme persona, Leary was creating seriously brilliant music with the Butthole Surfers. The significance of that work can be measured in the far-reaching scope of the band’s influence. It’s widely known that Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was an ardent admirer. Comedic iconoclast Eric Andre has acknowledged being inspired by the group. Pillars of arena rock like U2, and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones can also be added to this list – and both have collaborated with Leary in various capacities. Much of the subversive creative spirit that fueled the Butthole Surfers’ best work can be found inside the grooves of Leary’s charmingly twisted new album. Musically, Born Stupid largely steps away from the atomic punk energy and fuzzed-out metal riffing that defined the Butthole Surfers’ sound. Instead, Leary has crafted an equally compelling soundscape filled with carnival sideshow calliopes, spaghetti western guitar motifs, and off-kilter German beer hall waltzes. But where the Butthole Surfers’ work was often squarely focused on the manipulation of sounds and textures, Born Stupid is heavily rooted in the craft of song, and the record’s finely structured musical landscapes work to support the stories being sung.