Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band – “Take Me to the Land of Hell”

(Photo Credit: hasitleaked.com)

Grade: A-

Key Tracks: “Moonbeams,” “7th Floor”

Avant garde has never sounded this groovy. Yoko Ono has never taken too much of a break, musically. But this album is the second in four years for the Plastic Ono Band, whose last proper release before 2009 was in 1973 and featured John Lennon. Ono’s music is tough to predict – it can exist anywhere from feminist poetry, noise recordings with Sonic Youth members, or this album, an unpredictable but catchy record. No, it isn’t radio-proper, but it finds a consistent groove early on and only breaks from it to get some avant garde freakouts.

Opening track “Moonbeams” nears six minutes, and pushes the volume until it is a loud and shrieking track, but one that still finds a little rhythm. The two tracks that follow, “Cheshire Cat Cry” and “Tabetai” calm down and settle into a weird and rhythmic pattern. the follow-up, “Bad Dancer,” is lyrically and musically the most conventional song on the album, with a funky rhythm that doesn’t really stray away. The album keeps up with this weirdly successful combination for a number of tracks, until the haunting piano ballad title track. The album meddles just a little too long in slow songs, but the final, “Shine, Shine” is a frantic and experimental bit that wraps it all up nicely.

“Take Me to the Land of Hell” settles much closer to Nico on the avant garde spectrum – pop with the unsettling dissonance seeping in. Only this album is far more upbeat and diverse than anything on “Chelsea Girl.” Ono’s vocals are right for the album, and her backing band create a perfect avant garde-pop background. Contributions from guests like Lenny Kravitz, Questlove and the two surviving Beastie Boys go unnoticed as part of an ensemble, but what the ensemble presents is a fun, intense performance piece that takes both the rhythms of pop-rock and the experimental nature of poetic avant-garde.

If you like this, try: I mentioned it already, Nico’s legendary 1967 album “Chelsea Girl.”

-By Andrew McNally

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