What better relationship to have but one where music is the constant center? Sean Lennon and his girlfriend, model Charlotte Kemp Muhl, have been creating music together in their New York apartment since 2008 under the guise of The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger.
Midnight Sun, not their first release, does feel like the one where everything finally links into place. It is their first to go speaker-to-speaker with instrumental bombardment. In 2010 they released a collaboration with Mark Ronson titled Jardin Du Luxembourg, their own home-recorded Acoustic Sessions, then La Carotte Bleue, a limited release of reworked songs from the previous two.
For a guy with arguably the world’s most famous and inspirational musicians as parents–John and Yoko–Lennon, at 38, has maintained a scattershot musical career. He’s lend his expertise to the work of his friends in Cibo Matto, Albert Hammond Jr., and others, and released two solo albums eight years apart. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, then, is his main fling.
As a personal mode of literary expansion, I will try not to overuse the most obvious, and accurate, descriptors for Midnight Sun: psychedelic, sunshine pop. On it you’ll hear tremolo, ghost-like vocals, a crescendo of guitars thick with echo, everything thick with echo, walls of unplaced instruments that build-up, then slowly crumble. Hopefully there is a wide comfortable carpet to lay back on as the songs morph and take over the room.
Lennon and Muhl equally share duties on the record. They wrote every song together except for “Golden Earrings.” Muhl sings on “Johannesburg” in a tone soft as dandelion hairs falling on your face. The song opens wide in a field of sunshine with a wubby drum beat and something, somewhere dripping. The album’s title track thrives on a groovy acid-house romp with Lennon’s muttered vocals at the center. Both trade lines back and fourth on the bouncy cloud pop of “Last Call.”
On “Animals” the couple barrel down Fifth Avenue with a surging parade of big clashing drums, wound-up guitars and a rumbling bass. “Golden Earrings” begins calmly with a hide-out organ crawling up the spine. Lennon’s voice sails the Seven Seas and never returns. “Poor Paul Getty” sounds like a White Album outtake rediscovered in a time-vault left on the Moon. Midnight Sun ends with the loopy “Moth to a Flame” as it tunnels out from the Hadron Collider for a brain-charring finale.
Hopefully would-be listeners don’t get stuck on the fact that it’s “only the project of John Lennon’s son.” Make no mistake about it: Sean Lennon is his father’s son. There is no denying it when you hear the voice–the flat range of emotion, the coarse English drawl pulled deep from the throat, but pitched a bit higher. The comparison is undeniable, but let’s face it, just about every English singer to come around since the Beatles has had hints of John Lennon in their vocals, lyrics, style and experimentation.
On Midnight Sun, we’re hearing what the former Beatle would’ve made in this generation, with all precepts of song structure slashed, resold and lacking of fun. Lennon takes us down the choppy rivers of psychedelia his father’s band helped to create and restores it for a final product worthy to stand on it’s own, here, in 2014.