Hive Five: Our Daily Listicle of Musical Musings
Sean Lennon has more sides to his musical personality than a Rubik's Cube in a hall of mirrors. From his solo singer/songwriter outings to his art-folk duo with Charlotte Kemp Muhl, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, he bears as restless an artistic spirit as you’d expect from someone of his lineage. That fact is borne out even further by this week’s release of Lennon’s latest project, Mystical Weapons, the debut album by his duo of the same name with Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier. The pair’s mostly instrumental, giddily eccentric collaboration is as lovably left-field in its own way as John and Yoko’s late-‘60s avant-garde explorations (Two Virgins, Life With The Lions), illuminating yet another aspect of Lennon’s ever-evolving aesthetic. The best barometer for gauging a performer’s artistic ecosystem, however, often turns out to be the stage, so here are five clips of Sean Lennon at his best in a broad array of sonic settings.
1. “Dead Meat”
Lennon finally followed up his 1996 solo debut in 2006 with the nakedly emotional Friendly Fire. For his first big TV appearance in years, on the record’s release date, he took the stage of the Late Show with David Letterman flanked by an elegant orchestral-pop ensemble as he plowed through the album’s compelling opening cut.
At the 2001 all-star John Lennon tribute, Come Together, Sean’s solo-acoustic performance of his father’s shimmering Beatles-era ballad breathed fragile new life into the homage to the elder Lennon’s mother, the grandmother Sean never knew.
3. “Lavender Road”
Lennon really hit his stride when he formed the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger in 2008 with his girlfriend, Charlotte Kemp Muhl. This performance on WNYC’s Spinning on Air, hosted by David Garland (on whose own latest album, Conversations with the Cinnamon Skeleton, both Lennon and Muhl appear), shows the duo’s knack for entwining their voices around sensuous, serpentine melodies in a sort of Rufus Wainwright-meets-Joanna Newsom fashion.
4. “Sail on Sailor”
Apparently we partly have Lennon to thank for his childhood pal Mark Ronson discovering his own destiny -- when the former joins Ronson onstage for a romp through the Beach Boys’ elegiac “Sail on Sailor,” the uberproducer reveals that it was Lennon’s early guitar prowess that led a young Ronson to pursue an alternative to six-string heroism.
5. “Maggot Brain”
Speaking of Lennon’s guitar prowess, there’s no better way to witness his fiery fretwork than this clip of the fretmaster guesting with Tokyo duo Mi-Gu (who also occupy the roster of Lennon’s own label, Chimera Music) on a demolition-derby version of Funkadelic’s classic brain-burning 1971 instrumental.
Mystical Weapons self-titled debut is out now on Chimera Music.