First up, let’s get one thing out of the way. The elephant in the record store, if you will. The band Ghost Of A Saber Toothed Tiger comprises two people: one of them is singer/multi-instrumentalist/model/goddess Charlotte Kemp Muhl, and the other is singer/song-writer/multi-instrumentalist/John Lennon’s son Sean Lennon, which makes half of this band the spawn of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. This, however, will not be a rambling reflection of how difficult it must be for a musician to escape the formidable shadow of his father, arguably modern music’s most influential icons.
The most difficult part of reviewing their album, Midnight Sun, is defining what it sounds like. Yes, the Beatles influence is definitely there, and that could either be present as homage to the rock legend or a genetic predisposition. Whatever it is, it works. The Syd Barrett woozy arrangements are evident as well, with synths and guitars, swirling snake-like together through most of the verses. Midnight Sun transcends rock clichés and unnecessary distractions from its most important facet: 12 songs of near-perfect, spacey, dreamy rock that manage to power through the labels of psychedelic music with intelligent lyrics and slick production value.
The entire arrangement is washed out by Lennon and Muhl harmonising together in almost all of the tracks, except ‘Johannesburg’ where Muhl takes on sole vocal duties. She has the bass-lines covered exceptionally; groovy and progressive in the right balance. Lennon’s raw vocals sound almost grating when wisps of Muhl’s saccharine sweet accompaniments melt through. That seems to be why this album sounds so good. There are such vast elements in this album, in the forms of strange instruments, displaced feedback, bells and whistles, and layers upon layers of varying sounds all meshed together in a non-perfect yet defined alignment. This is most evident in the album closer ‘Moth To A Flame’, a seven-minute epic journey to Mars that manages to hit that sweet spot of meticulous production to achieve the illusion of minimal production.
By and large, Midnight Sun seems to have gone commercially unnoticed despite receiving unanimous critical acclaim. In fact, its Billboard position is at par with the current positions of Abbey Road and Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club. However, that is more a conversation on the shambolic state of the music industry rather than a question mark on this band’s ability. Admittedly, this is one of the best debut albums you will hear in a while. It indicates that when talented musicians produce a stellar record, which sounds like you have switched on the radio in a time-travelling spaceship while going back to the greatest era of music, unobstructed by music executives, it just won’t sell.
How unfortunate that this is usually the best indicator of good music now.
Fyez Ahmed is a Dubai-based writer. He tweets @fyezeatscake
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, July 27th, 2014.
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