PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger: Midnight Sun

This is a product that could have easily come out in the Beatles late '60s heyday, with gated reverb drums giving this statement a big, cavernous sound.


The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

Midnight Sun

Label: Chimera Music
US Release Date: 2014-04-29
UK Release Date: 2014-04-28
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

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. An outfit that is the collaboration between Sean Lennon and his girlfriend, musician/model Charlotte Kemp Muhl, Midnight Sun is an album practically dripping of the hippy, dippy late '60s. It's an astonishing listen, from front to back, and is remarkably cohesive in its singular vision. Pull out the bong for this one folks: mixed by none other than Dave Fridmann, this is a record that brings to mind the singular vision of the Flaming Lips with a dash of Tame Impala to the proceedings. But Midnight Sun also feels much older than that. This is a product that could have easily come out in the Beatles late '60s heyday, with gated reverb drums giving this statement a big, cavernous sound.

If anything, Midnight Sun is one big throwback with a solid sound that recalls the music, accurately, of a bygone era. In fact, "Don't Look Back Orpheus" feels in some respects like a merry-go-round broken down. This is face melting music, to be sure. But it also accurately conveys the feel of Sean's father's lineage, and while one wouldn't want to make a big deal out of this fact, one cannot help but escape the notion that this is music being made by the son of a lost Beatle. And, perhaps surprisingly, a few of the songs are undeniably catchy and made lodge a hole inside your cranium: "Xanadu" and "Animals" being Exhibit As in that regard. This is powerful and towering stuff to be sure. While opening cut "Too Deep" feels a little truncated at two minutes and a half, it makes it clear who Sean's lineage is. "Xanadu", NOT a cover of the Olivia Newton-John and ELO song, is a giddy and infectious stab at Eastern music influences. "Animals", meanwhile, is probably the most Lennon-esque moment on the record with its references to Christ. "Johanneburg" sees Kemp Muhl take lead vocals for the first time, and, here, she sounds a little like Charlotte Gainsbourg. It's a giddy and infectious track.

From there, the album heads into Tame Impala territory with the title track, which is rollicking and rocking in equal measure. "Last Call", meanwhile, all six minutes of it, is a proggy song that is staggering, and is an amalgamation of John Lennon with Harrison guitar histrionics during the chorus. "Devil You Know" is the most Emmit Rhodes-esque song to be had here, with its liquid-y vocals buried under a gloss of water. "Golden Earrings" is a stab at neo-soul and is affecting. "Great Expectations" is simply great and earworm worthy. And while much has been made of "Poor Paul Getty" being the spiritual antecedent of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", with its references to cut-off ears, which might be the record's sole nod to John Lennon's songwriting partner. "Don't Look Back Orpheus" is a much more countrified number, with a nod towards pure psychedelia. And the album ends on the nearly seven-minute long extended epic "Moth to a Flame", which seems like the perfect goodbye to this near-masterpiece, lodging itself deep inside your skull.

When all is said and done, Midnight Sun is a near perfect album. It remains wholly consistent, and evokes a certain time and era of music that doesn't often get heard very much anymore. It also offers an opportunity to wonder about where John Lennon's musical linage might have gone, had he lived. There is much staggering stuff to be heard on this album, and it forms a statement of artistic intent that should bode well with future releases from the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. This is an authentic throwback to sounds of a particular era uprooted and made special in the most modern day and age of music. This is heavy, moving stuff, and does a great deal to cement Sean Lennon's legacy as a musician, let alone being the son of a Beatle. There is much that is interesting about the record, from its loopy production techniques to its actual songwriting.

But, more importantly, Midnight Sun cements the notion of the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger as being an actual band. This is a record that gets more and more enjoyable on repeated replays, and showcases a certain love for a particular form of musical artifact. If John Lennon were alive to appreciate this work of mastery, I am certain that he would more than heartily approve. Midnight Sun is a monumental gem of an album, and I cannot more heartily give a thumbs-up to this retro-infused throwback of the late '60s and the summer of love, and it is more than apparent that a lot of craft went into this work of belaboring. This is something that more than deserves to be heard, and I commend both Sean and his girlfriend for making what is, more apparently, a work of pop songcraft that straddles the line so effortlessly between the past and the present. Midnight Sun is a true jewel, and worthy of the linage of one member's predecessor.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.