Already instantly recognisable from just her first name, Yoko Ono has now chosen to use only her last name - ironically, exactly the same two syllables usually comprising the listening public's reaction to news of another Yoko album - in what one presumes is an attempt to streamline her public image.
This album is likewise aimed at re-positioning Yoko in a rapidly changing cultural landscape, by aligning her with a selection of (mostly American) trendy indie acts such as Peaches, Polyphonic Spree, Sleepy Jackson, Cat Power and Antony of Johnsons fame, each of whom has selected a track from her back catalogue and woven her original vocal parts into a new arrangement of their own devising. The results are every bit as hit and miss as you'd imagine, ranging from Shitake Monkey's transformation of "O'Oh" into slick pop-funk, to Craig Armstrong's treatment of "Shiranakatta (I Didn't Know)" as a lush symphonic chanson.
The bulk of the contributions, of course, aren't that readily palatable, a characteristic largely attributable to the often wilfully abstruse nature of the originals. And despite the best efforts of the collaborators, some pieces stubbornly refuse to be house-trained: The Apples In Stereo, for instance, can Spectorise "Nobody Sees Me Like You Do" with all the strings and chimes at their disposal, without compensating for the core track's lack of charm. In most cases, the choice of songs and arrangements reflects the collaborators' personalities rather than Yoko's: it's no surprise to find Spiritualized's Jason Pierce turning "Walking on Thin Ice" into another opiated drone-rocker; nor that Peaches should discern in "Kiss Kiss Kiss" much the same combination of ingenuousness and carnal hysteria that she herself employs. The childlike innocence of "Toyboat", meanwhile, is only amplified by the addition of Antony's warm cooing.
The best tracks are those that pick up Yoko's ball and run with it, pointing her original pieces in new directions. The Flaming Lips take Ono's improvised wailing and Lennon's feedback noise from the original "Cambridge 1969", looping fragments into more of a recognisable structure, on which they build a new avant-jazz stew of organ, wah-wah guitar, cymbals and horns. But the most surprising success is that created by nu-prog-rockers Porcupine Tree for "Death of Samantha", deftly blending acoustic guitar, mellotronic synth and yearning e-bow guitar behind Yoko's tragic "cool chick" characterisation: "When I'm with people, I thank god I can talk hip while I'm crying inside". Rather like this album, one suspects.
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