Sean Lennon, the story goes, discovered his Muse exactly where any sensible person would have gone looking for it: halfway between the experimental, conceptual and internationally attuned art of his mother and his father’s way with the pop hook, the Lewis Carroll-fueled mental effluvium and the cutting remark. What that genetic formula fails to account for is the agreeable, unassuming modesty that has always characterized Sean Lennon’s writing and performance. And the question is: Did he ever have a choice?
Even when he was going for a ripped-speaker alt/rock torture on about half of his debut, 1998’s Into the Sun, Lennon’s music comes off as pleasantly optional: It’s there, and it’s very decent indeed if you want to lean in and attend it. If not, it’s all good. It seems that he intuited from a very young age that he’d never be able to raise his voice above the din of his lineage, and he has been quite content to work as a scenester’s scenester, a landed New York regular. Smart move. Smart guy.
What is a bit of shame in that the hushed, casual psychedelic melodicism and bossa undercurrents of his best stuff were actually a bit ahead of their time, and Lennon might have been right there with Belle & Sebastian as a herald of the “new quiet” were his quiet not so easy to (mis)construe as a function of his impossible inheritance. If you want to know which of his father’s many personalities Sean is natural heir to, look not to the blues yowl and the needy psychology of “Don’t Let Me Down” or “Run for Your Life,” but to the worldly abdication and the who-cares tuneful beauty of “I’m Only Sleeping,” to which Sean pays overt homage in the lovely song “Wait for Me” on 2006’s Friendly Fire.
Some of the finest, cheekiest psychedelia that Sean Lennon has ever perpetrated is to be found in his most recent project, the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (now called the GoaSTT), a band that he co-fronts with his longtime girlfriend, supermodel Charlotte Kemp Muhl. Their excellent 2011 eight-song EP Le Carrotte Bleue is a thoroughly enjoyable collection of well-written, winking Jet Set retro-pop with the requisite New York noise quotient met in the title-track finale. It is low on urgencies of any kind, but high on imagination, heightened language and careful musical development. You’d like if it you didn’t know that it was Sean. Will you like it now that you know it is?
The GoaSTT (Sean Lennon & Charlotte Kemp Muhl) with special guest Brother JT (of the Original Sins), Saturday, September 28, 9 p.m., $12 advance/$15 day of show, tickets at Outdated Café, Kingston, & Jack’s Rhythms, New Paltz, BSP Lounge, 323 Wall Street, Kingston; (845) 481-5158, https://bspkingston.com.