Review

By Neil McCormick
London Telegraph - 16 May 1998

Photograph Smile

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AS if endless comparison to their father wasn't enough, the Lennon brothers have set themselves up in competition with each other, releasing albums in the same week.

Julian's fifth LP - after a five-year hiatus - is certainly his best (although that wouldn't be hard, given what preceded it). If the uncanny familiarity of his voice makes comparisons to his father unavoidable, at least they are increasingly favourable. Operating in a mainstream soft rock area, it actually sounds like something Lennon Snr. might have made towards the end of his career. Beatle references abound, with Julian delivering a full-blown homage on How Many Times.

It is all a bit unnecessary, as elsewhere Julian demonstrates a previously unsuspected ability to craft heartfelt, lyrically deft, melodically memorable songs. The minor chord melancholia and relentless introspection of Crucified and Walls paint a moving portrait of a sad man looking for love in a hostile world. Only 20 when he made his debut, at 34 perhaps Julian has by now suffered and matured enough to bring some genuine experience to his songwriting.

His 22-year-old half-brother clearly hasn't suffered enough. So now it's our turn. So hip it hurts, Sean dates a member of New York cool cats Cibo Mato (a Japanese girl named Yuka, oddly enough) and is signed to the Beastie Boys label. His debut album is pure indulgence, the sound of a confident kid having fun in the studio.

Thankfully there are no Beatle references. Unfortunately, they are about the only group he hasn't borrowed from. Sean shifts from drippy ballad to grunge rock to free jazz - and that's just in the opening track. The album ranges from easy-listening Latin pop to lo-fi Dylan parodies.

Eclecticism is all very well, but not if it is an excuse for lack of direction. Nonetheless, the boy sings with a sweet nasal deadpan, conjures up bright, lyrical images and imbues everything with innate melodiousness. The album is a mess but an oddly engaging one. One day, Sean will undoubtedly make a good record. Let's hope it doesn't take him as long as his big brother.

Julian Lennon Photograph Smile (Music From Another Room)
Sean Lennon Into the Sun (Grand Royal)