Paul Leary, “Born Stupid”

Paul Leary
Born Stupid
SHIMMY DISC/JOYFUL NOISE
7/10

For anyone who guessed that Gibby Haynes or King Coffey would continue the goofball theology, mad Sabbath riffing, Plastic People poetry, and Texas-style post-psychedelia of Butthole Surfers into the twenty-first century, think again, jerkoffs: instead, second Surfers singer, abstract theoretician, and guitarist Paul Leary just dropped his first solo album in thirty years with Born Stupid.

With a knuckle-dragging voice blending latter-day Cash and Cohen to that of the magical Lee Hazlewood and a mixed-bag brand of mood music combining chamber pop, cinematic horrorscapes, throbbing industrial, and tangy Spaghetti Western vibes (sometimes all on one song, such as “What Are You Gonna Do?”), Leary, the legendary Kramer (whose Shimmy Disc label gets its official reboot with Born Stupid), and Devo drummer Josh Freese go about reconvening Butthole-style caustic silliness with the likes of “The Shah Revisited,” a warm and weary campfire version of his Surfers assassination classic “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave,” and “The Adventures of Pee Pee the Sailor,” a hearty, horrifying sea shanty that would scare any TikTokker.

Luckily for us and Leary, however, Born Stupid moves the needle just far enough from his former home for discomfort’s sake. While the sunnily strummed “Gary Floyd Revisited” (dedicated to Austin’s The Dicks) comes this close to cheer, the new album’s title track, with its lyrics filled with career choices, twanging guitars, and a disembodied voice emulating “The Lonely Bull” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” is a sonic delight of too-rare design. Plus, Leary continues his solo ideal, a socio-conscious one, with the mooing and chicken cackling on “Do You Like to Eat a Cow,” an echo-laced “Sugar Is the Gateway Drug,” and the prickly protest of “What Are You Gonna Do.”

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