Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 in Review: The "Misunderstood Artist Finally Gets Proper Recognition" Award

This award, honoring a frequently misunderstood and maligned musician who is finally getting the respect she fucking deserves, goes to:

Yes, I'm a Witch
Yoko Ono

I love Can, and Faust, and all of the other krautrock bands that are getting all this love lately for being so brilliant and influential. I'm excited that our culture is finally catching up with them. Which is why it confuses the living hell out of me that we haven't caught up with Yoko Ono yet. Yoko's Plastic Ono Band and Fly albums deserve every bit as much love as Tago Mago and Faust So Far, and yet she's perpetually known as the bleating shrew who broke up the Beatles. LET IT GO.

This year marked the first time in my life when I was really pleased with how I feel Yoko Ono is being represented to the public, and it's because of this album. It's not properly an album of new material, and it should probably be considered a compilation: Yoko made an agreement with 20 or so young and popular musicians to write new music behind her old vocal tracks, to reinvent her songs. The results are largely stellar. Some groups (like, say, Peaches) take the cue from her hit with "Walking on Thin Ice" and turn her songs into clubby dance tunes. Others (like Apples in Stereo) surround her with lush orchestrations that engulf her in the joyous, triumphant optimism that she herself exudes. The results are a bit scattered: the tracks really could have been rearranged into two coherent halves that sounded nothing like each other. There are a couple of duds: the fact that Cat Power's cut is easily the worst on the album was a convenient foreshadowing to the stultifyingly dull set she performed immediately preceding Yoko at the Pitchfork Festival. But this album, and the flurry of great press that surrounded it, have shown that Yoko Ono is finally catching on, that people are gradually mustering the courage to dig into her back catalog and unearth the many gems there.

I personally would have loved to see the Contortions get back together to cover "Why?" but I suppose I can't expect miracles.

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