For Yoko Ono, who came to fame in the U.S. for offbeat art installations and outsider events like bed-ins, there was a kindred spirit to be found in Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon.
“I’m very proud of them,” Ono said during a tandem live performance in 2010 at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles, “for being great, great avant-garde rockers.”
Fast forward two years and Ono, the widow of former Beatle John Lennon, has released an intriguing collaborative EP with the former members of Sonic Youth, combining their experimental rock with her own conceptual vocals. The trio issued a 14-minute track called “Early in the Morning” earlier in the summer as a benefit for the Ashinga Rainbow House, a relief initiative for Japanese tsunami victims.
By then, YokoKimThurston, available via through Chimera Music, had already gained no small measure of interest from fans of Gordon and Moore’s old band — since the project was the first project they have done since announcing an end to their marriage after 27 years.
But there was more to this collaboration than some sort of PR stunt. In a way, it actually felt inevitable.
After all, YokoKimThurston, follows the 1995 track “Ono Soul” from Moore’s solo album Psychic Hearts and a cover version of Ono’s “Voice Piece for Soprano” in 1999 by the couple’s daughter Coco on SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century. (Of course, if you dig into the YouTube library, Gordon and Moore are apparently no fans of Ono’s 1980 collaboration with Lennon, Double Fantasy. Click through the link, and you’ll find Kim unceremoniously smashing the album to bits.)
In a new interview, Ono talks about the deeper aesthetic connections she found found with Moore and Gordon.
“Most people like to hear sounds they are used to,” Ono tells Justin Jacobs of Billboard. “Unlike many rock or pop songwriters, Thurston and Kim are taking a chance in creating new sounds, without worrying about being unpopular. I like that in them.”
YokoKimThurston was recorded in a burst of activity, all in one day: “Every moment in our lives is a miracle we should enjoy instead of ignoring,” Ono says. “We just happened to not have ignored this incredible moment that happened between us three.”
Asked what’s next for her, the ever-mercurial Ono offers a classic response: “Who knows?”
Here’s are our recent thoughts on Yoko Ono, John Lennon and Sonic Youth. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
JOHN LENNON – DOUBLE FANTASY: STRIPPED DOWN (2010): “Double Fantasy” never felt dangerous enough to be a great John Lennon record. That started with this too-slick, of-its-moment presentation. I guess it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise, really, since the best of Lennon’s solo stuff after 1970?s “Plastic Ono Band” similarly suffered from dated, shag-carpety production. He loved a big sound, when sometimes a smaller one would have been more effective. It’s perhaps why, at the time, I tended to favor a pair of loose, unfinished posthumous followups, 1983?s “Milk and Honey” and 1986?s “Menlove Ave.” Not anymore. This new edit of “Double Fantasy” claims the fertile middle ground between, fostering a fresh complexity in Lennon’s last studio work — even as it stays true to certain elements of the craftsmanship from before.
SONIC YOUTH – RATHER RIPPED (2006): Can a band mature and continue to challenge themselves and listeners? Rather Ripped answers yes. Sonic Youth may not wail away with walls of squealing distortion like they used to but Rather Ripped’s lyrical focus on relationship troubles is backed by their trademark angular pop that will never be mistaken as band taking the easy way out.
GIMME FIVE: SOLO BEATLES RECORDS THAT, WELL, SUCKED: For all of the promise that greeted their time apart — we’ll get four Beatles albums a year now! — the reality was far different as Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison embarked on solo careers.Lennon might have had the most disappointing solo career of them all, if only because he was the one who left with perhaps the highest expectations. But a creative lull followed his first two albums, then a long stint as a house husband and then, alas, his vicious murder. That said, you’ll notice that fewer Lennon recordings appear on our list than do those from McCartney or Harrison, because it seems even his failures were more interesting than theirs.
SONIC YOUTH – DIRTY (1992): For years and years, Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation was the record I went to when the mood struck for some ugly & hypnotic guitar. Dirty now sits in that spot. Blistering and hideous guitar madness. This isn’t for everyone … but if you’re up for some guitar torture then you oughta start right here.
THE GHOST OF A SABER TOOTH TIGER – ACOUSTIC SESSIONS (2010): Featuring this dreamtime folk whimsy and a fabulist band name, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger sound at times like Syd Barrett, or maybe Simon and Garfunkel. Or, like an ornate, late-night 1960s French pop singer, after perhaps one too many tokes. What they don’t sound like, not really, is John Lennon. And that’s saying something. See, last November’s Acoustic Sessions is the quietly issued debut of Sean Lennon — second son of Beatle John; only child of his union with Yoko Ono — and talented multi-instrumentalist/model/girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl as the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Sean is, actually, this atom-smashing blend of his two parents, with the gentle romanticism and sharp wordcraft that represents one part of his father’s complex legacy, but also the far-out mysticism of his conceptual artist mom.