I’D HATE TO put you to sleep. You wouldn’t want dreams like mine. They’re no fun. They’re as dry as me. Like one I had not long ago starring Yoko Ono. In this dream, Mrs Ono-Lennon went to the front line for Japan in a war against North Korea and her primary weapons were those pointy tits that Madonna used to have. In Yoko’s hands, these were truly potential nipples of mass destruction that the Americans always suspected she had but for one reason or another failed to investigate.
Anyway, she’d had these things electrified, and she had to pull this little solar generator thing around behind her on a cart just so the tits would work. Wearing some of John’s old khaki camouflage gear that was just lying around the house not being used anymore, she would run at the enemy with a signature squeal, expose the nipples to the sunlight, and they’d fire off these kind of…, how can I describe it…, mammary gamma rays. And down they’d fall. The North Koreans, that is.
It was rather Pythonesque. Except this time it wasn’t the German joke, it was the Japanese joke. And this, unfortunately, is the way Yoko is often viewed, specially by non-repentant Lennon fans still fighting the gullet acid reflux reflex of viewing her very existence through a prism of girlfriends interfering in bands, poking their noses into musical creation, only to break up the band anyway. That’s if you believe that’s how it went down. Who knows and who cares?
We are here to be taken to the land of hell, and therefore I suppose I must consider that concept to be a failure because the record itself is pretty good. If you’re after everything that’s quality about Yoko’s musical art, you’ll find it here, from the classic and widely-admired feigned orgasm noises, right down to the best impression I’ve ever heard of the soundtrack to a tortured parakeet documentary. But seriously, even though my tongue is in my cheek so much I hope the wind doesn’t change, Yoko surprises with this album and even gives us some more than acceptable singing, especially on the piano ballad title track and the beautiful ‘Watching The Dawn’. ‘7th Floor’ even comes across as a retrogressive new wave nod to Double Fantasy’s ‘Kiss Kiss Kiss’, much as ‘Leaving Tim’ resurrects the jazz swing of ‘Yes, I’m Your Angel’ from the same 1980 turntable blockbuster.
Take Me To The Land Of Hell reminds me a lot of Yoko’s 1972 opus, Approximately Infinite Universe. Though for sheer production swagger, this latest offering more than tops it. Producer Sean Lennon should be congratulated. He’s done a sterling job assembling the players, too numerous to mention, and putting them in position to do their thing.
With the material here being mostly in recitative mode, (or sometimes half recitative/half singing within one line), there was plenty of room for the musicians to jam. And jam they do. I don’t mean jam as it’s used in the current vernacular where playing any music at all is thought of as ‘jamming’, even if you’re alone. Ha. I mean in the traditional way where musicians get together and just start to play and whatever happens happens. That’s how it sounds anyway, and they hit on some strident and satisfying grooves here.
It’s a beautifully balanced mix, too. Everything is where it should be. The drums are big and tight, complementing the often round distortions of the bass. The players all sound so rich and present and on top of their game that I’m prepared to forgive a repetitive and meaningless lyric line like ‘New York noodle town’ straddling a hot band. Less absurd is ‘When your heart is dancing/Your mind is bouncing’ from ‘Bad Dancer’, in which Yoko admits to that very thing. Although if dancing is your thing, you could do a lot worse than bounce anything at all around to the sharp on-top-of-it groove this track attempts to seduce your footwear with.
So yes. All systems go. You probably won’t find a better Yoko album than this. It’s not my favourite this year or even necessarily totally in line with my personal taste, but for what this record attempts to achieve in avant-garde dance poetry spiced with pop songwriting, and pulls off with tasteful playing and arrangements opening out into a balanced sound my speakers are lovin’, top marks. She does what she does do well. PETER KEARNS
Sound = 4/5
Music = 3/5