Imagine, if you will, what it would be like being the son of John and Yoko and choosing a musical career. The expectations, sycophants and constant distractions brought to your door would surely muddle or completely derail any budding idea for concept or song. But Sean Lennon is a lot like his famous parents and bucks tradition and expectation, forging on with each one of his releases. Eight years after his critically acclaimed debut, Sean gives us his most ambitious and personal effort to date. Born out of first-hand loss and unrequited reconciliation, Sean walks us through quicksand-strewn beaches of love showing us what we need to survive but not necessarily what we want. “Dead Meat” opens up this heartbreaking lesson with a threatening message to the one who has betrayed him. The positive message contained in an echo from the past “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” suddenly darkens into, “In the end you’re gonna learn / Oh, you’ll get what you deserve” after a real life betrayal from his best friend lands a direct hit on his heart. This brings us to the album’s title track, “Friendly Fire,” which just oozes from painful treason and remorse. “You launched the assault with the first cannonball, my soldiers were sleeping” When Sean half sings/half cries “You were my friend” you can just about feel the depth that the blade in his back has reached.
The album is dedicated to his ex-best friend, Max LeRoy who had an affair with Sean’s then-girlfriend, Bijou Phillips. He died shortly after that from a motorcycle accident and Sean never had the chance to hug or slug him again. This horrific emptiness permeates this excruciatingly fragile record. In “Tomorrow” Sean puts on a brave face and tries to dismiss his feelings for the girl who left him behind. “I promise to stop loving you tomorrow/ Today can be your last day in my arms again.” But just as with any alcoholic or addict, “stopping tomorrow” is a lie to more than one person. The songs here are very delicate, painfully precious and dramatically insightful. There is such a metaphysical but loving and forgiving haze over the entire CD. It’s almost like he’s reacting the way he is “supposed” to under these circumstances, but his knowledge and love of humans and nature stop him just short of the jealous guy his father sang about.
Don’t get me wrong, the hurt here is palpable. The album’s closer, “Falling Out Of Love” reads like a suicide note to his emotions. “Stay away I’m not myself/ No one can help me now” and “I’ve lost my way don’t follow me” is a far cry from happy, but it is truly cathartic. This is a record that Sean obviously needed to make and one that you need to hear. This remarkable album also comes with an accompanying DVD of short films for each song. Written by and starring Sean, it chronicles this most personal of tragedies for all to see and stars remarkably, Bijou Phillips as the ham in the best-friend sandwich. Also appearing in this glorious David Lynch-like image-scape are Lindsay Lohan, Asia Argento, Jordana Brewster, Carrie Fisher and Devon Aoki. All the songs here are very well thought out and Beatle-boot polished with swirling, looping and soaring scores.
Sean’s phrasing is much like John’s and is used just as effectively when delivering his soul-baring lyric. If there were any reservations before as to whether or not Sean could compete with his name, Friendly Fire will most certainly silence those critics. This is a genuinely classic release in every sense on par with and in some ways more mature than anything we’ve heard from his family’s legendary canon of work. Just like a dream, this record transports the listener and then safely returns them a little worldlier and a lot wiser than when they left.
Sean Lennon: www.seanonolennon.com