By Michael Lello
Psychedelic rock comes in many forms, from heavy freakouts to out-there folk and everything in between. The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger on its new album “Midnight Sun” traffics in dark, otherworldly psych that focuses on the heavier end of the spectrum, with big drums and bass, heavy guitars and disorienting effects, bringing to mind Syd Barrett and ’90s Britpop psych revivalists like The Verve.
.The group’s primary members are Sean Lennon and his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl, and they work well together as writers and singers; her sometimes impressionistic lyrics fit the music like a glove, and their voices are a perfect pair, whether working in tandem on harmonies or stepping out on leads. While The GOASTT’s last major release, 2010’s “Acoustic Sessions,” conjured sunny Parisian sidewalk cafes, the sun has now gone down, and that same landscape is more sinister
“Too Deep” opens the record with drones and jangles, evoking old-school psychedelic rock, before “Xanadu” brings in some Eastern string sounds. “Animals” is one of the album’s catchier numbers, starting from clattering percussion and wordless “ahhhs.” Lennon sings of living in a fishbowl and offers “a prayer for the Internet billionaire,” before heavy guitars usher in the chorus of “Animals have escaped the zoo/ Coming down Fifth Avenue.” Later, Lennon asks the listener if you believe what you see on TV, like messages from Jesus in grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s dark, it’s humorous and it’s an attractive commentary on media consumption and saturation.
Kemp Muhl handles lead vocals on “Johannesburg,” which is more subdued than “Animals” but no less kaleidoscopic, with her childlike coos and a heavily effected guitar solo. Coos in the distance and a triangle, as well as plaintive muted trumpet, over effects, trail off as the song fades.
The title track is built on a sly guitar line and a jittery drum beat. “I’m just an ordinary alien,” Lennon sings before a fuzzy guitar solo as the band gallops along. “Last Call” is unofficially in two sections: a folky song with back-and-forth vocals between Lennon and Kemp Muhl, and an instrumental segment that pays homage to post-Barrett Floyd, particularly “Breathe.”
“Devil You Know” is as deliciously dark as its title, with a calliope of sounds and a sharp guitar riff, and “Golden Earrings” is expansive and swoony, with swirling organ. “Great Expectations” is uncharacteristically bright, at least in the choruses, “Poor Paul Getty” sounds more like John Lennon than anything else on the record and “Don’t Look Back Orpheus” is relatively sedate yet arresting, thanks to the way The GOASTT enters the chorus.
“Moth To A Flame” closes “Midnight Sun,” and with its squealing slide guitar, throaty organ and driving drums, it again evokes Pink Floyd at its best. It goes on for nearly seven minutes, and about half of it is a jam that would fit right at home on Floyd’s “Meddle.”
Comparisons to other artists can be a lazy way to describe, or a tool to point out a lack of originality, but that is not the point here. The GOASTT is original in what influences it draws from and how it applies them to its own music. The band’s writing and playing prowess takes over from there, and the result on “Midnight Sun” is a collection of songs that transport you to an alternate universe while comforting you along the way. Fans who have been longing for a fresh take on psychedelic music would be well advised to hear this one.