wears the trousers magazine


yoko ono/plastic ono band: between my head & the sky (2009)
September 21, 2009, 9:40 am
Filed under: album, mp3, review, video | Tags: , , , ,

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Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band
Between My Head & The Sky •••••
Chimera Music

There’s some loud banging going on; “It’s me / I’m alive.”

Delivered with the tiniest amount of glee fighting through, it with this statement that Yoko Ono brings her latest album, Between My Head & The Sky, to an effective close. Whether you’re 76 or 26, ‘I’m Alive’ is one of the most life-affirming recordings there is. And at twenty seconds long, it acts as succinct summary of the album as a whole. The principle message of the album seems to be, “Get out there in the world and exist. Relish it”. In the wrong hands – which would be the majority – such a campaign could sound preachy and saccharine. Thankfully, Ono is able to show fear as well as intense excitement; for example, in ‘Feel The Sand’, in which she lists the sensory pleasures gained from life, more spoken than sung, over gentle acoustic guitar and sparse, abstract strings. At times there is a sense of sadness that these things have to be mentioned at all.

Ono has spent a lot of her career as an artist promoting peace and love. She has said before that musicians have more power to change things than politicians. Musicians are more readily invited into peoples’ lives, and with this record, Ono is targeting the listener as an individual, hoping her message of positivity will spread through them. During ‘Unon. To’, she begs us not to give up on life from a perspective not often encountered in music: “Life can be so beautiful, especially after you have spent a lot of years with it.” Of course, Between My Head & The Sky isn’t just tranquil meditation on the sublime beauty of living; this is Yoko Ono after all. The fast-paced and more aggressive elements of life are well represented. There has always been something raw about Ono’s music and vocal techniques specifically; if there ever was an advocate for the primal scream, it is her.

This is the first album since 1975 to be credited to the Plastic Ono Band, in this incarnation including Sean Lennon and Cornelius. Album opener ‘Waiting For The D Train’ is classic Plastic Ono Band – rock guitars and wailing – as are the even more abstract ‘Moving Mountains’ and ‘Calling’. Cornelius’s input is most evident on the stomping, electro ‘The Sun Is Down!’ (the mix on the album is explicitly credited to him) and ‘Watching The Rain’, both featuring his signature wide-panned blips and glitches. High energy, extroverted and with solid drums, the opening three tracks provide a good contrast to the closing ones, a devastatingly beautiful trio of songs touching on mortality and the passing of time. With its titular exclamation mark and impossible lyrics (“Ask the tiger why she’s so quick / ‘That’s ’cause I’m on a rollerskate, love'”), ‘Ask The Elephant!’ is the go-to track for proving what a kook Ono is, just as the reflective, piano-led ‘I’m Going Away Smiling’, while not shattering that image (which wouldn’t be a good thing anyway), demonstrates she is an artist with scope and depth – and ‘kookiness’.

Between My Head & The Sky veers between these two distinct styles as it plays through, some moments existing in a space almost perfectly between the two (‘Watching The Rain’). It feels free, loose and improvised; a collection of recordings, dependent on time and place. With Ono in charge, it was always going to be an interesting outcome – but this time all the other variables must have been right too. A peerless artist producing her best work.

Daniel Clatworthy
UK release date: 21/09/09; www.myspace.com/officialyokoono

FREE MP3: Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, ‘The Sun Is Down!’ [Cornelius mix, via Pitchfork]

‘Rising’ [live]

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4 Comments so far
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I was hoping you guys would be publishing a review of this and I’m delighted to see that I’ve only heard positive reviews thus far from all the websites I’ve scanned. “Scope, depth and kookiness” is a perfect description of what I know from Yoko and I’m glad to hear that this hasn’t changed for the new album.

Ps. And thanks for the pitchfork link!

Comment by Will

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