I imagine it's not easy being Sean Lennon.
I can hear you now: But he's got more money than God!
Sure, but how far does money go when your father was brutally assassinated when you were 5 years old? How tough must it be to release music as the son of one of the most beloved musicians in history? How bright must that singular spotlight be?
I don't know much about the person Sean Lennon actually is, but it seems to me that he's been handling his situation pretty well. He's made guest appearances on albums by Lenny Kravitz and Deltron 3030, among others. He sang on a tribute album to his mom, Yoko Ono, and performed in a band, IMA, with her. He helped organize an all-star re-recording of his dad's "Give Peace a Chance" to protest the 1990-1991 Gulf War. And, in 1998, he released his first solo album, Into the Sun, on the Beastie Boys' label, Grand Royal. It was a mostly acoustic singer-songwriter affair recorded with help from his then-girlfriend, Cibo Matto's Yuka Honda. It wasn't earth-shattering, but I loved it.
In doing research to write this, I discovered that he released another solo album, Friendly Fire (Capitol), in 2006 (how the hell can the son of a Beatle release an album that goes so unnoticed?), as well as the score for a 2009 film, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead—the same year he produced an album for his mom on his own Chimera label.
For the last two years, he and his model girlfriend, Charlotte Kemp Muhl, have been performing as The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Lennon plays guitar, and Muhl plays a number of instruments, including guitar, accordion and xylophone. They usually sing together in harmony. The duo released an album, Acoustic Sessions, on Chimera in October of last year.
Based on what I've heard from Acoustic Sessions, the songs are sparse, gentle, pastoral snapshots about, as NPR put it, "elegant gardens, dystopian futures, striving scientists, a smarmy impresario and much more." While they likely won't get stuck in your head the first time you hear them, they're lovely. And they're studded with lyrical bon mots like "wearing Freudian slips like evening gowns / taking guilt trips from town to town."
The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger performs at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 21. Admission is $12. For more information, head to hotelcongress.com, or call 622-8848.
Solar Culture's got one heck of a double bill this week in Peter Wolf Crier and Retribution Gospel Choir.
The former is a Minneapolis-based collaboration between Wars of 1812 frontman Peter Pisano and sound engineer and musician Brian Moen that released a debut album, Inter-Be, on Jagjaguwar in May 2010. Pisano plays guitar and sings, while Moen handles percussion and sings a bit, too. Based on the band's name (bonus points for paying homage to one of rock's great forgotten frontmen), you might think the duo trades in joke-rock; it doesn't. The album is a solid debut, a slightly ramshackle collection of instantly lovable indie-folk-rock songs with a warm heart. And it's produced by Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Weezer), one of the best and most unsung knob-twiddlers working today. In a nutshell, Inter-Be is difficult to dislike.
The latter started out as a collaboration between Low's Alan Sparhawk and Mark Kozelek, who led both Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon (and played a member of Stillwater in Almost Famous). But by the time the band's self-titled debut album (released on Kozelek's Caldo Verde imprint) appeared, in 2008, Kozelek was no longer a member. A second album, 2, was released last year on Sub Pop.
While Low was a pioneer of what was called slowcore, a genre that sounded exactly as you'd expect (the closest I've ever come to falling asleep at a show was during a Low concert), Retribution Gospel Choir—which now also includes drummer Eric Pollard and Low bassist Steve Carrington—totally fucking rocks. On 2, the band jumps around from '70s-inspired guitar rock to guitar-driven indie-rock to riffy Southern rock. The mention of guitar in each of those descriptions is no accident; it's as if, after 15 or so years of playing the slow stuff with Low, Sparhawk couldn't wait to plug into a Marshall stack.
Peter Wolf Crier and Retribution Gospel Choir take the stage at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., at 9 p.m.. Monday, Jan. 24. Admission to the all-ages show is $7. Call 884-0874 for further details.
Listening to Guster, who have been putting out records for more than 15 years, it's difficult to imagine how they ever got pegged as a jam band. Aside from a slight folk element, Guster's music is as pure as pop music gets—it's sunny; there are plenty of "ooh"s in the background vocals; and it's got hooks for days. If you've written them off in the past due to their reputation or their fans, trust me when I say they're worth another listen.
Guster performs at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Monday, Jan. 24. Good Old War opens the all-ages show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $21.50 in advance, or $24.50 on the day of the show. For more info, go to rialtotheatre.com, or call 740-1000.
It's always great to welcome a new venue to Tucson's musical landscape, so we're happy to announce that Noise Venue (aka Noise), an all-ages venue located at 657 W. St. Mary's Road, is now open. The venue will hold a grand-opening show at 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 23, featuring pop-punks We Still Dream, The Tired and True (both on Eulogy records), Nightlights, Summer in December and Better Late Than Never. Tickets are $8 in advance, or $10 at the door. The following night, Monday, Jan. 24, they'll have a show featuring Counterparts, Gideon, Red Son, Execution of a Titan, Condemned and Truancy. That one is $10 and also starts at 7 p.m.
Lisa Otey and the Desert Divas—Hurricane Carla Brownlee, Heather Hardy, Liz McMahon, Regina Wills, Diane Van Deurzen, Rich Nordenberg and Chip Ritter—are celebrating their 10th anniversary with a CD of covers called B.Y.O.B.—Bring Your Own Boa!, and are feting it with a pair of CD-release shows this week. The album features takes on classics by Sam Cooke, Gloria Gaynor, Glen Campbell, Labelle, and the Weather Girls, and here's the deets about the shows: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 21, at the DesertView Performing Arts Center, 38759 S. MountainView Blvd., in Saddlebrooke ($21 in advance, $24 at the door; 818-1000); and 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 22, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. ($21; 740-1000).
Kings of Pleasure will play a free show at 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 21, in the lobby of Hotel Congress to kick off the hotel's annual Dillinger Days festival. The weekend's events also include Congress Speakeasy, a 1930s-style variety show that will feature live music from Duo Vibrato, old-time radio shows and magic, at 6 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 22, in the hotel's Copper Hall. For more details, go to hotelcongress.com, or call 622-8848.
Batucaxé's Masquerade Mania at the Armory Park Center Ballroom on Friday, Jan. 21; CD-release party for Please Remember Me: Musical Compositions of Ted DeGrazia featuring Domingo DeGrazia and the Tucson Jazz Institute at the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun on Friday, Jan. 21; Sleeping in the Aviary, Monster Pussy, and Logan Greene and the Bricks at The HangArt on Wednesday, Jan. 26; Authority Zero, Flatfoot 56, Lionize and more at The Rock next Thursday, Jan. 27; Leila Lopez, Greyhound Soul and Ricky Gelb at Solar Culture Gallery on Friday, Jan. 21; The El Camino Royales, The Swigs and Fish Karma and the Love Generation at Sky Bar on Friday, Jan. 21; Billy Sedlmayr, Van Christian and The Technophobes at the Red Room at Grill on Friday, Jan. 21; Seashell Radio and The Provocative Whites at Surly Wench Pub on Friday, Jan. 21; Funky Bonz and What Knotts at The Hut on Wednesday, Jan. 26; Cosmic Slop at Sky Bar on Saturday, Jan. 22; Inoculara and Stoned to Death at the Surly Wench Pub on Saturday, Jan. 22; Brass Tax at Club Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 26; Faster Than Light, The Runaway Five and Jackalope at Vaudeville tonight, Thursday, Jan. 20; and the first installment of Saturnalia, a monthly roving wine-tasting featuring music spun by Weekly contributor Carl Hanni, at the Best Western on Stone Avenue, on Wednesday, Jan. 26.