Release Date: Apr 29, 2014
Record label: Chimera Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia
Most gratifyingly for fanciers of The Beatles’ all-too-brief psych phase, Sean Lennon’s understanding of his old dad’s oeuvre seems to begin with Tomorrow Never Knows and end with Baby, You’re A Rich Man. Accordingly, The GOASTT (an illustrative acronym for The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger, Sean Lennon and model/ singer Charlotte Kemp Muhl’s ongoing band project) wig out like shamen throughout Midnight Sun. When that familiar, adenoidal and disembodied Lennon timbre kicks in over whirling backing tracks that ironically evoke George Harrison’s It’s Only A Northern Song more than anything, the effect is headier than a crown of laudanum joss sticks in a hot shed.
I’ve always wondered where John Lennon would have gone with his music had he not been so mercilessly cut down in 1980. Would he have retreated back into film work, such as what his fellow Beatles bandmate did in Paul McCartney in 1984 with Give My Regards to Broad Street, which is, by most accounts, pretty terrible? Or would he have joined a supergroup along the lines of George Harrison with the Traveling Wilburys? Well, at this point, it’s all merely conjecture, but Lennon’s youngest son, Sean, offers a clue on the latest release from his ongoing current project, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger: John would have beat the retreat into the realm of psychedelic rock. The ghost of John Lennon hovers strongly over Midnight Sun, the band’s latest release.
Being the spawn of two of the 20th Century’s most recognisable cultural figures no doubt brings its own pressures, which may be why Sean Lennon has always seemed content to make an esoteric noise under the radar. Something, on the third Ghost Of A Sabre Tooth Tiger record, seems to have changed. Alongside partner Charlotte Kemp Muhl, ‘Midnight Sun’ positively slays.
Whether they're exploring gentle, Brazilian-influenced harmonies, drifting folk, or psychedelic pop, it's clear that Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl, better known as the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, are on a journey of creative exploration. On Midnight Sun, the pair follow their artistic muse into the realm of fuzzy psych rock. While their journey into this territory started on Le Carotte Bleue, an album that felt similar to some of Lennon's past work, Midnight Sun feels like a different animal altogether.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Although Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp have been making music together since 2008 - already releasing a couple of very cool tunes, including the Mark Ronson-produced 'Jardin du Luxembourg' - it wasn't until I first heard one of Midnight Sun's singles, 'Animals', that my mind suddenly clicked and I felt ashamed I hadn't given Lennon's youngest son half a chance before. A cohesive, impressive work is what you can expect from Sean Lennon's and his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp's most recent full length as The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger - out via the band's own label Chimera Records later this month.
Named for a short story by partner-bandmate Charlotte Kemp Muhl, Sean Lennon's primary musical outlet has, like much of his solo work, been determinedly low-key. The Acoustic Sessions LP, from 2010, was exactly as described: gentle Muhl-Lennon duets seemingly designed to backdrop a vintage magnum of Chassagne-Montrachet. The limited-release follow-up, 2011's La Carotte Bleue, electrified some of the same songs, and rocked a winking cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Comic Strip." But Midnight Sun is something else.
For a 38-year-old who has existed in a bubble of music his entire life (an increasingly eclectic one as the years have gone by, at that), Sean Lennon does not have a huge amount of work to his name. Ever since his solo debut, Into The Sun (1998), an album that received more than its share of unfair criticism, he has seemed wary of expressing himself, as one would be in what must be his confusing, claustrophobic (but incredibly expensive) shoes. Therefore between then and his follow-up, Friendly Fire (2006), his mission was to "experience music anonymously", and this he did by performing in Cibo Matto and working with artists from The Strokes to Jurassic 5.
While psychedlia in all its forms continues to play a more apparent role in new music, for Sean Lennon it’s a natural influence that flows through his veins. As the son of the man behind most of “Tomorrow Never Knows” and all of “#9 Dream”, an experimental nature is clearly also a second one. Previous solo albums Into The Sun and Friendly Fire continued in a similar style to John Lennon’s more honest moments (the acoustic ballads, the piano-lead romantic songs) but Midnight Sun dives straight into the swirling stream of untried effects, spiritual lyrics and drums that vibrate around walls of sound.
Music is one of the only fields where we hold the sins, or saintliness, of the father against the son. Sean Lennon has had it both a lot harder, and a lot easier, than most musicians over the years. His second release as the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, his group with his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl, should lend credence to both the misgivings of critics and the joy of fans.