[The first of my wide-ranging two-part geekdown with Sean Lennon is published at Salon.]
The son of a legend taken before his time, Sean Lennon is dealing with that burden these days by making what he calls “soulfuldelic” sonics. Although they are — like everything, really — powerfully imprinted by the Beatles, the psych-rock explorations of “Midnight Sun,” the new album from Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl’s band the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (GOASTT) owe as much to the “fucking awesome” grooves of his friends The Flaming Lips, as well as their forebears Pink Floyd. “Once I started playing with the Lips, I kept saying, ‘Whoa, you guys, this is the greatest show on Earth — besides Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall!’” the soft-spoken Lennon told me by phone, still a fan at 38 wise years. “I kept saying that a lot.”
Despite these intimidating predecessors, and the GOASTT’s own live shows starting in May, Lennon and Kemp-Muhl’s project doesn’t wear the anxiety of influence. As one can tell from their post-Lynchian videos for “Moth to a Flame” and “Animals” — costarring Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow — Lennon and Kemp Muhl are happily living in their own arty world. Creating their own reality, if you will, just as his legendary mother Yoko Ono regularly advises. Indeed, watching the lovers Lennon and Kemp Muhl romp in their darkly humorous videos feels like 21st-century iterations of John and Yoko doing the same, decades ago, during the making of “Imagine.”
Similar ordinary aliens, different extraordinary century.
It is Barlow who described Lennon in the GOASTT’s biography as “an alien who fell to earth and had to quickly assimilate humanity,” while Lennon himself humbly sings “I’m just an ordinary alien” in “Midnight Sun’s” raucous title track. But if Lennon is indeed this century’s man who fell to Earth, then he has landed firmly on his feet with “Midnight Sun’s” wide-ranging permutations.
With its sardonic prayers for Internet billionaires in “Animals” and gleefully nuked banksters in “Moths to a Flame,” the GOASTT’s amped follow-up to its mellow but brainy “Acoustic Sessions” should convincingly upgrade Lennon’s profile as an artist of his time and media — that is, a panoptic period of cli-fi apocalypse and yet humble optimism, which Sean seems to have to spare. As the dust of the 20th century the Beatles dominated depixelates into memory, Lennon is quietly hacking their legacies to create lasting multimedia of his own.