I didn’t truly appreciate Sean Lennon’s musical talent until his superb 2006 solo album Friendly Fire. Finally, the son of a legend had stepped out of his father’s immense shadow and found his own voice. Yet Sean hasn’t reached the same level since. Sean’s various side-projects haven’t come close to the level of songwriting that he reached on Friendly Fire. Mystical Weapons is his latest endeavor and again it’s another experiment lacking any material with real staying power. Accompanied by Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier, Mystical Weapons is an improvisational, instrumental, two-piece that really goes places. I only wish they were places I wanted to go.
Though Lennon is the guitarist and Saunier is the drummer, neither are confined to those roles. Mystical Weapons features a whole cluster of feedback heavy guitars with buzzing beeps and boops. The sounds produced may raise an eyebrow or two but there’s little in the way of actual composition. I should have been warned when I read “Improvisational” but there’s good improvisation and there’s boring improvisation. 70s Krautrock band Can would be an example of good improvisation. Can did plenty of noodling but always kept down a steady groove. They were also a classically trained and highly versatile group. Lennon and Saunier are good but they’re no virtuosos. Mystical Weapons is music anyone could make with the right gear.
The best moments are when Mystical Weapons leaves conventional instrumentation behind. “Mechanical Mammoth” is the most unusual yet most intriguing. I have no idea what instruments I’m listening to but they work and don’t work together in such a way that it draws you in. Unfortunately, too much of the material is either either fuzzy guitar or dissonant piano, both set to scattered jazz percussion.
I’m sure there’s an audience for Mystical Weapons but it’s not me. I feel the same way about avant-garde music as I do avant-garde filmmaking. It can be interesting when someone distorts visuals and themes, but it will never be as interesting as a well crafted story. Just as musical experimentation will never be as good as well crafted songwriting. I know Sean has it in him, hopefully he revisits the sensitive-pop stylings of Friendly Fire again someday.
Favorite Track: “Mechanical Mammoth”