Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band

Take Me to the Land of Hell

2014-02-23

This one is nearly impossible to approach. Yoko Ono is insanely ambitious. Or just insane. Probably a bit of both, actually. The 80-year-old's newest album Take Me to the Land of Hell is as diverse and grandiose as it is bizarre, oozing with almost off-putting levels of creative energy. While much of the record showcases Ono's uncanny vocals ranging from spoken word to an echoing caterwaul, most of its appeal lies in the spectrum of music surrounding it provided by an absurdly expansive set of players including (but not limited to): Sean Lennon, Nels Cline of Wilco, tUnE-yArDs, Lenny Kravitz, Ad-Rock and Mike D. of the Beastie Boys, Yuko Araki, and ?uestlove. The musical pieces of Take Me may be scattered across a soundscape with varying elements and styles, but the strangeness of it all blurs the lines between tracks.

Having listened to it twice all the way through, I'm still quite unsure if I like or dislike the album. It's certainly not the most accessible, but certain songs and combinations create moments of rare beauty that are fleeting and confusing. Starting is the hardest part, as is the case for many things. Opener "Moonbeams" along with the following three tracks ("Cheshire Cat Cry", "Tabetai", and the record's single "Bad Dancer") don't really possess discernible melodies but are rather built on short, abrasive riffs accompanied by Ono at her most cosmic - this makes an intense and confounding top 1/3 of the album. But then, the slow, alluring pulse and soft atmosphere of "Little Boy Blue (your daddy's gone)" is introduced, a tune which showcases a less grinding side of Ono (until the end when she trails off into moaning and perhaps crying) along with the soothing timbre of a Kalimba and tUnE-yArDs providing lush background "la's". "There's No Goodbye Between Us" takes the form of a ballad, while "7th Floor" is a funky jam undoubtedly penned by ?uestlove with Ono doing her best David Byrne impression. The latter half also includes slow string accompaniment ("Watching the Dawn" and the title track), a charming number that feels like "When I'm 64" ("Leaving Tim"), a pleasant tune with alt-country flavor ("N.Y. Noodle Town"), and closes out with the same maniacal energy it begins with ("Shine, Shine). It may take a few listens, but there's probably at least one track that will catch anyone's fancy among Take Me to the Land of Hell. But I'm making no promises.

Recommended Tracks: #"Little Boy Blue (your daddy's gone)", #7 "7th Floor", #8 "N.Y. Noodle Town"

Sigmund Steiger

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