Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Yes. (Breathe)

Don’t be scared.

YO-Don't Worry Kyoko mp3

Just go ahead & press play on this link. Hear some of it while you read. This is, first-off, a cultural artifact. 1969 in Toronto. At, somewhat incongruously, some sort of rock&roll “revival” event. The guitar players are Eric Clapton & John Lennon. The banshee-squealing is by (who else?) Yoko Ono. Maybe you’ve heard this before & maybe you haven’t. Either way, you probably come to this with a whole a lot of preconceptions, right? Try, please, to forget them for a minute, & just hear.

A couple of pedestrian observations, right off the bat:

1. You’ll wait in vain here for a chorus, bridge, or other meaningful variation of the riff. I submit that the arrangement is, functionally, a Loop. A proto-sample, even. I think that’s interesting, historically speaking.

2. Yoko is not tentative, not hesitant, not even slightly deferential to the heavy hitters on stage with her. She is confident. Shit, she’s ferocious! Her performance is not haphazard; she very clearly knows what she’s doing.

So, but this is some weird shit, yes? The full title of the song is actually “Don’t Worry, Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow).” I daresay that nobody in 1969 in Toronto had ever heard anything like this before. But now it’s forty-plus years later. & I think we ought to not be quite so taken aback. I mean, how many different flavors of weird have we enjoyed, even wholeheartedly endorsed, since then? We have long ago processed & assimilated, e.g, Kate Pierson. & Lene Lovich. Nina Hagen. Kathleen Hanna. & cetera. I mean, now, we have Molly Siegel, now we have Satomi Matsuzaki. Shit, now we got Karen O. I could go on the list is so long, but my point being: Just the bare fact of Yoko Ono ululating & shrieking & Oh, it’s not pretty & it’s not polite & it’s not very nice should no longer give us pause. I mean, right? We should be able to just hear it.

& yet: Yoko & co are coming to town next month & I have been delivering that news to WOW quite a mixed bag of reactions from the people I know. What exactly is it about Yoko that can still spark such reflexive aversion? Such rancor, even? I merely pose the question; it’s not something I’m going to try to explain.

Anyway, Ms. Ono does what she does. She’s an experimental artist, & she expects you to do your share of the thinking. She’s not necessarily going to just feed it to you. She provokes. She works in a very wide variety of media, & right now evidently she’s working once again in music. She’s got a new album out, called Between My Head and the Sky. When it succeeds, it’s really kind of a thrill:

YO-Waiting for the D Train

As with any mad scientist, not every experiment of hers is a successful one. I won’t lie: There are some songs here that are campy in a way that is, I’m sorry, totally unintentional. Wince. But I have a lot of respect for the reaching, the naked risk-taking. & I just have nothing but affection for the unshirking & well-earned positivism that lies at the heart of all Yoko’s work. This is somebody who has faced the fucking heart of darkness more than once. Yet, what is her ultimate message? It’s pure & it’s sublime, it’s: Yes.

It’s: War is Over, qualified by nothing other than If You Want It.

Anyway, the new album: Yoko once again shares the stage w/some heavy hitters (including Sean Lennon), albeit this time maybe not the best-known ones around. One reason I personally am excited to see Yoko Ono is that Yuka Honda is in the band.

Yuka Honda was, once upon a time, ½ of Cibo Matto. Do you remember their first album, Viva! La Woman? That was some seriously brilliant shit, & it made a significant splash back in, uh, nineteen ninety-freaking-SIX (jesus). OK, I’ll just go ahead & assume for the sake of discussion that you don’t remember that one, so here’s a kind of a Whitman’s Sampler of Cibo Matto for you:

Fun, right? See, that’s the thing that I now think: shit has to be fun. It’s experimental OK but it doesn’t have to be like taking your medicine all the time. People want to impose every damn kind of hierarchy on the music of the world. The older I get, here’s the one question I want answered correctly: Am I having fun when I hear it?

Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band are playing the Fox in Oakland on Feb 23. It's exciting to me that I have no clear idea of what to expect. This is yet another episode of the SF Noise Pop fest. & just to put a cherry on top of the whole deal, Deerhoof is opening!


No comments:

Post a Comment