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Various Artists - Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono Music Album Reviews

Various Artists - Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono Music Album Reviews
Curated by Ben Gibbard and featuring Sharon Van Etten, David Byrne, Japanese Breakfast and more, this tribute album fares best when the artists match Yoko Ono’s fearless spirit.

Whenever Beatlemania goes into brief remission, the world recalls that Yoko Ono helped invent punk, post-punk, and new wave. From Kate Pierson of the B-52’s to Kim Gordon to Kathleen Hanna to ANOHNI to RZA—the list of artists who cite her as a spiritual and stylistic godmother is staggering, and her influence spans from the avant-garde to the Billboard Hot Dance 100, where she racked up six consecutive No. 1s at the ripe age of 78. But all this history is instantly submerged the minute the Beatles reenter the cultural conversation, which will happen as long as entertainment companies have Q4s. Then, it’s 1971 all over again, and she is once more reduced to a lightning rod. Sometimes, it feels the world is not big enough to contain both Yoko Ono’s public persona and the music she made.

For that reason, there’s never a bad time to put out a compilation celebrating Ono’s output. But Ocean Child, a new tribute album assembled by Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, comes at a particularly charged moment: It was just over three months ago that Peter Jackson’s 8-hour documentary Get Back debuted on Disney Plus, reigniting the “Yoko Ono, Destroyer of Beatles” narrative that swarms without fail to the surface of any reexamination of the band’s final days. The setting is ideal for a corrective, something to put her music back in people’s ears.

The trouble is, listening to this comp is a spotty way to get to know her. In a sweet note accompanying Ocean Child, Gibbard expresses the hope that the album will guide new listeners to Ono’s work, and the list of contributors suggests he understands her music's elemental power: Thao, Sudan Archives, Deerhoof, Sharon Van Etten, the R&B group We Are KING. The song choices are smart, and all of the covers range from capable to very good, but all of them reinforce the idea that no one else could make her music.

The first selection, “Toyboat,” comes from Ono's wrenching 1981 album Season of Glass, released in the wake of her husband’s murder. The original has an eerie serenity to it, suggestive of shock or stupor. Sharon Van Etten makes a skin-prickling hymnal out of it—it’s excellent, but it’s a Sharon Van Etten song, and because Season of Glass is unavailable on streaming platforms, it’s not all that easy to contrast it with the otherworldly stasis of Ono's original.

A few artists pay her spellbinding songs the dubious honor of transforming them into unremarkable indie rock. David Byrne and Yo La Tengo’s “Who Has Seen the Wind?” would sound nice synced to a few shots of leaves falling on roofs in an A24 dramedy, but it’s hard to shake the feeling their placid performance waters down the original. Death Cab’s “Waiting for the Sunrise” smooths the emotional violence from the tempo, and Gibbard drops Ono’s brittle enunciations, so it no longer sounds like one brutalized soul offering fragile hope—just some guy waiting around for a sunrise.

The best covers summon Ono's fearless spirit. Japanese Breakfast’s unadorned take on “Nobody Sees Me Like You Do” captures her vulnerability, as does Amber Coffman’s close-mic’d reading of “Run Run Run” for just voice and electric guitar. Sudan Archives, an artist whose intensity is a good match for Ono’s, fills Season of Glass’ “Dogtown”—a song that opens with the observation “I think of my friends, they were once not so dead”— with a suffocating silence, her pizzicato and her voice spreading like spider cracks across the surface of the arrangement. U.S. Girls’ Meg Remy’s vocal tone is close to Yoko’s, and Remy’s “Born in a Prison” has the original’s baleful atmosphere, like a nursery rhyme wafting out of a collapsed building.

There was a lot of horror in Ono’s music, whether it was convulsive and nightmarish like “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for a Hand in the Snow)” or placid and eerie like “Mrs. Lennon” (“Husband John extended his hand/Extended his hand to his wife/And he finds, and suddenly he finds/That he has no hands/They’ve lost their bodies”). Ono watched bombs fall on her family’s estate at the outset of WWII as a child, and her music is full of bleak, durable wisdom about how to live in a world raging with the hellfire of war and hate. She wrote about trauma in real time and sang about it with an otherworldly vulnerability. Very little of this legacy is palpable on Ocean Child, which feels sort of like a Lifetime Achievement Award introduction in album form, without Ono taking the stage. It still seems like there are plenty of people willing to speak for Yoko Ono, but not that many willing to listen to what she had to say herself.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Various Artists - Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono Music Album Reviews Various Artists - Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Saturday, March 12, 2022 Rating: 5

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