Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sean Lennon's Second Record

Friendly Fire, the sophomore solo album from Sean Lennon, will be released by Capitol Records on October 3rd.

Following Into the Sun, Lennon’s acclaimed 1998 solo debut, Friendly Fire is a cinematic suite of songs which share the same dizzying wealth of musical styles as its predecessor, but eschews some of its freeform tendencies for more traditional song structure and some unifying themes.

The years between albums found Lennon collaborating with everyone from his mother, Yoko Ono, to Money Mark, Deltron 3030, Handsome Boy Modeling School, Vincent Gallo, Thurston Moore, John Zorn, Ryan Adams, The Boredoms, and Ben Lee, to name a few. But they also provided him with the opportunity to let Friendly Fire evolve naturally, at its own pace, and to limit participation to talented friends, of which he’s blessed with many.

“There was a long period after the first album where I felt disillusioned with the machinery of the industry,” says Lennon. “It’s not that I stopped recording, playing and performing, I did all of those things, just more discreetly. Friendly Fire is an experiment to see what it might be like to do music more publicly again.”

Produced by Lennon, the Friendly Fire sessions really got underway when he asked producer/engineer Tom Biller (among other things Jon Brion’s trusted mixer for his recordings with Fiona Apple and Kanye West, as well as the scores for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and I (Heart) Huckabees) and drummer Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, Tori Amos) into the studio for two weeks of collaboration.

Where Lennon played most all instruments on his debut, the Friendly Fire sessions found him still writing most of the parts, but conjuring a shape-shifting “band” to record live to tape, mostly in single takes. Other participants included Jon Brion (organ, guitar, additional drums), Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda (piano, keyboards, bass), Harper Simon (guitar) and Bijou Phillips (background vocals), among others.

A childlike piano prelude introduces sweeping album opener “Dead Meat,” the sweetest, most lush-sounding song to ever warn “In the end you’re gonna learn/All you get is what you deserve.” Similarly, the dark romanticism of the gentle, melodic “Parachute” intones “If I have to die tonight/I’d rather be with you.”

The smoky, endearingly spooky “Tomorrow” is a cursed lovers’ ballad picked up via deep-space transistor radio. Driven by handclaps and acoustic strumming, “Headlights” is most propelled by its gracefully-unfolding vocal harmonies. And a near-unrecognizable psychedelic reworking of Marc Bolan obscurity “Would I Be the One” floats and disperses before the album’s final track, and perhaps its most literal, the forlorn and orchestral “Falling Out of Love.”

Lennon has also produced a short film for each of the album’s tracks, directed by Michele Civetta. The fantastical shorts, which together comprise a conceptual film about betrayal and the failure of love, feature appearances from Lennon and friends including Lindsay Lohan, Bijou Phillips, Asia Argento, Carrie Fisher, Devon Aoki, Jordana Brewster and others.

As for the experience of creating Friendly Fire the album versus Friendly Fire the film Lennon says, “Music is invisible. I spend a lot of time in the studio with my eyes closed. This, thankfully, was not the case with the film.”



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