Two albums in only just under a decade may be a production rate that makes the Stone Roses look like poster boys for the work ethic, but Friendly Fire is well worth the wait. In fact it’s so good that I’m not even going to try and stop myself from making lots of cheesy comments about this being The Second Coming from a man who really is the Son of God (or of a man who was a lot more popular, anyway). Even so, It’s only going to get three stars – not because it isn’t worth more, but because somehow we demand more, even though this is very, very unfair.
Let me elaborate. If Sean Lennon had been the son of minor civil servants from Lincoln he’d be massive by now. He would have become massive eight years ago when the sublime Into The Sun was released and he would have stayed massive. He would now be one of the biggest stars in the world and everyone, everywhere, would shout from the rooftops about his talent and ignore other cheery, happy, sunny pop troubadours such as Jack Johnson because they would be seen merely as pale imitations.
Unfortunately, Sean Lennon is not the son of minor civil servants from Lincoln, which means the poor bloke is never going to get the recognition he deserves. The vast majority of people are never going to bother to look past who his parents are to actually listen to what he has to offer. He’s always going to be measured against an impossible yardstick.
On the other hand, it’s possibly the case that it’s only because he’s free of the albatross of having to impress anyone around his neck that he’s truly free to create whatever music he likes, whenever he likes and to take the time and the space he needs to perfect it.
The result is an album on which there is very little, if any, filler – very few tracks that couldn’t hold their own as singles. From the gentle music box lullaby that tops and tails opener Dead Meat, through the laid back psychedelia of Wait For Me and the catchy hooks of Parachute, he knows how to use a piano and how to work this is to an irresistible pop melody. Tomorrow is perfect jazz club romance – not to mention a perfect two and a half minute pop song.
Unlike the rage against the world that was sometimes his father’s muse, Sean’s Friendly Fire is an album that never once raises its voice, as if he’s long decided that he feels no need whatsoever to justify himself to anyone. This lets songs like On Again, Off Again trip along happily and Headlights to smear itself unashamedly handclaps without trying to be clever, genre-defying, self-depreciating nor boundary breaking.
He’s got no beef with the record industry, the world nor anything. He’s just making lovely, lovely pop tunes. At nearly five minutes long, there are moments when Would I Be The One leans carelessly close to Prog, but even this never strays too far from its roots to be a problem. Actually, scrap that – the guitar solo really is unforgivable, but it’s a rare glitch.
In short, Friendly Fire is deliciously mainstream throughout, ending as perfectly as it began with the beautiful piano ballad Falling Out Of Love, with its dark reprise and velvet harmonies. And then it’s over. Don’t let it be another eight years until the next one. Please.