As if in a hellish dream, women in rock, of a certain age, have somehow dug themselves into one of three niches: the lustful cougar, the flouncy Susan Boyle, or the pious mother-widow diva. In this haze of reality we find Yoko Ono: yes, widow of John Lennon, mother of Sean, and the butt of too many clichés that you might as well stop thinking of one lest you be considered out of touch. Ono’s latest, Between My Head and the Sky, is an album that demands much. To multitask in its presence does you no good, as her trademark moan-gasms and hypnotic ululations litter the listen. Favoring the stolen morsel of time, what you hear in Sky is a cacophonous and brilliant mess of multi-genred and undulating joy. Ono is a quick as ever: cynical, quirky, meditative, and vulnerable. Her album oscillates from night to day and moves its listener to different places and different perceptions. Gathering elements of her musical past- from her flash-fried Asiatic pop punk in “Waiting for the D Train” to dark Mint Royale-esq throbs in “Calling” to sexy electrovibe dance and promising sound with “The Sun is Down”- doesn’t equate for much in the end. There is nothing new, fierce, reflexive, or forward moving in this album that we haven’t heard from Ono or her son in previous records (though, the complexity and ornamentation of Lennon’s composition is, by far, his best yet.) What makes this album the cocaine of its kind, a luxury drug for the meandering temperament, is the prescribed method for its listen: take this the way music is supposed to be enjoyed and you’ll feel better. Her defiance of convention or link to an ennobled spouse is no longer the pathway to reaching her esoteric few. Between My Head and the Sky shakes a fist to anyone for want of a listen: take it as you will; I am alive.
Photo by Charlotte Muhl & Sean Lennon (C) YOKO ONO 2009