My only memory of Sean Lennon Into The Sun was really liking the jazzy instrumental track that starts Side 2, ‘Photosynthesis’.  That’s it, in its entirety.  I bought Into The Sun on the day it came out in 1998, because it was on Grand Royal Records*, because I liked the LP cover and because I was curious about what it would sound like.  I vaguely remember Mrs 1537 being very underwhelmed by it, the state of my own whelms is not recorded; it clearly did not make too much of an impression.

Sean Lennon Into The Sun 04 (2)

Twenty years on** spinning Into The Sun hasn’t seen my whelms throw their little hands in the air and head to the dance floor, but equally so they haven’t streamed out the front door in a bid to escape the din either.  Like so many of the peak era Grand Royal albums Into The Sun sounds like every cool quirky thing ever to have come out of the great melting pot of NYC – there’s jazz, pop, psych, rock, bossa nova and all manner of interesting percussion going on here.  You can hear the influence of the likes of Cibo Matto, unsurprising as Into The Sun was produced by Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori and Timo Ellis also feature strongly here.  What I am unsure of is that whilst assembling and collating all these different and exciting styles Lennon adds enough of himself into the mixture.

Sean Lennon Into The Sun 01

Opener ‘Mystery Juice’ is very good indeed.  It has a really great warm immediate sound to it and the part where it explodes into total heavy guitar freakery followed by some decidedly post-coital synthing is a real LP highlight for me.  That it then pivots into ‘Into The Sun’ which is essentially a great bossa nova pop tune with sweet boy/girl harmonies and a cool tune, gives Into The Sun a great opening 1-2 combo; it is in fact right up there with the other fave bossa LP in the 1537.  Sadly, the Beck-goes-Beatles ‘Home’ breaks the run, it’s fine but nowhere near the standard of the first two tracks.  The rest of the first side is better, all mildly diverting and very cool sounding, if lacking a bit of bite.

As I may have let slip earlier the instrumental ‘Photosynthesis’ was my fave track on Into The Sun and I am very happy to report it was even better now than I had remembered it being.  You know all those Beastie Boys interludes where they get jazzy on your ass? well, much as I love them, ‘Photosynthesis’ just wipes the floor with them.  It starts brilliantly with Brad Jones’ driving upright bass the one constant, trumpets spiral up and away from and obfuscate the beat, then suddenly we’re powering away into South American rhythms and some quite brilliant trumpet courtesy of Dave Douglas which sounds a hell of a lot like Hugh Masekela to me.  And that’s not even mentioning the spacey drop out bit later on.  ‘Photosynthesis’ is far too short at only 6:47 it’s just excellent I could stand a whole LP’s worth of this level of invention.

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Unfortunately the lightweight pop with occasional guitar bursts that follows ‘Photosynthesis’ just do not weigh in at the same level of excellence, ‘Queue’ is fine but ‘Two Fine Lovers’ steers a course far too close to easy listening for comfort, I want to like it but just can’t.  I rather like the gear change that takes us down into the dust for ‘Part One Of The Cowboy Trilogy’, I think it’s a great little tune and reminds me (happily) of ‘Rocky Raccoon’^. I also like ‘Wasted’ and its little piano interlude.  ‘Breeze’ is, I am afraid, a movement of air emanating from the trouser region.  Into The Sun finishes in style though with ‘Sean’s Theme’, which was a total surprise to me I didn’t remember it at all.  It is a difficult little beastie to describe, there is a jazz tinge here again and a rather delightfully subdued horn and violin arrangement.  It is a little melancholy treat at the end of the album.

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Into The Sun is a bit of a mixed bag then, it isn’t an original thought but ironically this is much closer in spirit to one of McCartney’s prime solo LPs than one of John Lennon’s – I like that about it, it’s more restless^^.  There are a handful of great, inventive tracks here too, flashes of real unalloyed talent but not enough to propel Into The Sun into the realms of forgotten/under-appreciated classics and the lyrics could really do with some work, nevertheless this was an enjoyable, pleasant listen.

I will definitely sit down and play Into The Sun again before 2038.

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872 Down.

PS: I couldn’t quite shoehorn it into the body of the review but Yuka Honda’s production is excellent, there is a really warm, clear quality throughout the whole album.

*and I just bought everything I could afford to on Grand Royal.  Yeah, yeah, I’m a sheep, I know I am.  Baa!

**holy shit, I’m OLD!!!!

^which was my favourite tune on Earth for about a year when I was 10.

^^all of which failed to prevent the post title pun happening.


20 thoughts on “Sean Of The Dad

  1. Rocky Raccoon is still among my favourite tunes on the planet!
    Exceptional title Joe (as usual) – I saw Sean/Ben Folds Five/Beck around 1998, so he must have played some of these selections. I don’t recall much from his set, as the other two acts were ‘on’ that night.
    I shall try to give this a spin before 2038 as well, seems attainable!

  2. Sean Lennon – poor sod. Dad’s dead, mum’s weird and he’s rich. Why not make an album? Is he actually a musician?
    Before you chastise me for my lack of charity here, my dad’s alive, my mum is normal and I’m poor, and I nearly made an album – so it’s not hard to do. (My album, entitled A Whole Lot Of Sleezy, had killer tracks like, The Worm Song, Burton’s Wagon Wheels, She Freak and a funked/punked cover of the Rainbow TV series theme tune. I’m sure if we’d have got that record deal – I would have been shot by a mark Chapman-esque assassin… or put a gun to my own temple. )
    But hither, dither. What I’m trying to say, in my own inimitable way, is WHY?
    Music is obviously not his forte and despite your polite and ever-generous review, he sucks. I have heard though, from my Fat White spies, that he’s good for a place to crash in NY and makes a wicked falafel breakfast. Gotta love him for that?
    Sorry. I get more troll-like as I get older. I’m going now to suk under my rickety bridge.
    Ps. check out my little brother’s Japo-englaise band Onospungenlove.

  3. I remember this one. My brother owned it… I certainly remember thinking “Sean Lennon, eh?”, but aside from a few things I wasn’t too impressed (though I did like that it didn’t sound like his old man).

    After falling in love with the album he did with Mr Claypool, I probably should revisit this.

  4. I remember when
    this came out. There was a song or two that caught my ear, but not enough to buy it. I think it was more curiosity than anything else for me. I think Sean has turned into a fine musician and songwriter in his own right. Very adventurous, really.

    And I’m old, too.

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