First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2007, Volume 14, #1
Written by Matt Parish
Itís hard to imagine what it must be like to be the son of John and Yoko, and it must be even more difficult to follow them into the music business. The combination of lofty expectations, numerous sycophants, and countless other distractions surely would muddle or derail completely any budding idea for an album. Sean Lennon, however, is a lot like his famous parents in that he bucks tradition by doing things his way. A full eight years after the release of his critically acclaimed debut Into the Sun ó a length of time that certainly would have been a death knell for lesser acts ó Lennon has issued an ambitious and personal song cycle entitled Friendly Fire. The set was born out of his own loss and unrequited reconciliation. Throughout the endeavor, he walks his fans through the quicksand-strewn beaches of love, and along the way, he highlights what is necessary for meeting the needs of his survival rather than the wants of his desire.
Lennon dedicated Friendly Fire to his former best friend Max LeRoy, who not only had an affair with his then-girlfriend Bijou Phillips, but also died shortly thereafter in a motorcycle accident. Lennon never had the opportunity to hug or to slug him again, and his horrific emptiness permeates the excruciatingly fragile album that he concocted. The set begins with Dead Meat, a song on which Lennon sends a threatening message to his betrayer. In doing so, he takes the positivity of The Beatles and turns it into something darker. He twists Paul McCartneyís quote "And in the end / The love you take / Is equal to the love / You make" until it becomes, "In the end / Youíre gonna learn / Oh, youíll get what you deserve." Similarly, the title track oozes with the painful treason and remorse that he experienced, and when he half-sings/half-cries "you were my friend," itís impossible not to feel the depths of his despair. On Tomorrow, he puts on a brave face and tries to dismiss his feelings for the girl who left him. "I promise to stop loving you tomorrow / Today can be your last day in my arms again," he sings. As with any addict, however, stopping tomorrow is a lie to more than one person.
Suitably, the songs on Friendly Fire are very delicate, painfully precious, and dramatically insightful. There is a metaphysical but loving and forgiving haze that clings to the endeavor. Itís almost as if Lennon is reacting in the way that is expected of him under these circumstances, but his knowledge and his love of humans and nature stop him just short of being the jealous guy who inhabited his fatherís songs. Nevertheless, his hurt is palpable, and Friendly Fireís closing track Falling Out of Love reads like a suicide note to his emotions. Lines like "Stay away / Iím not myself / No one can help me now" and "Iíve lost my way / Donít follow me" may be a far cry from being happy sentiments, but they are truly cathartic.
Undeniably, Friendly Fire is an album that Lennon needed to make, and the accompanying DVD, which contains a series of short films (one for each song on the set) drives home this point. Written by and starring Lennon, the cinematic portion of the program chronicles his personal tragedy, and remarkably, it features Bijou Phillips, who essentially plays the role of herself. Also appearing in the gloriously David Lynch-ian landscape are Lindsay Lohan, Asia Argento, Jordana Brewster, Carrie Fisher, and Devon Aoki.
All the songs on Friendly Fire are well-executed, and they are adorned with scores that swirl, loop, and soar with a Beatle-esque flair. Lennonís phrasing, not surprisingly, is a lot like his dadís, and he uses his voice just as effectively for delivering his soul-baring lyrics. If there were any lingering reservations as to whether or not the younger Lennon could compete with his father, Friendly Fire most certainly will remove them, thereby silencing his harshest critics. Arguably, this is a genuinely classic release, and it is on par with ó and in some ways more mature than ó anything that lurks within his familyís legendary canon. Just like a dream, Friendly Fire aurally and visually transports listeners to another world, and then it returns them safely back to reality, hopefully a little worldlier and a whole lot wiser than when they left.
John Metzger's Review of Sean Lennon - Friendly Fire.
Friendly Fire is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box