Here we have a fifty-year-old Japanese woman performing synthesizer-based pop that’s more adventurous than much of the music currently being ground out by Europersons half her age. Indeed, “Dream Love,” the most aurally striking of the ten songs on Yoko Ono’s second solo album since John Lennon’s death, is a lush, electro-seaside chant that puts one in mind of those masters of British lunar elegance, Ultravox. And the eerie electronics concocted for such cuts as “Never Say Goodbye,” “Let the Tears Dry” and “Spec of Dust” sometimes suggest Kraftwerk in their most spectral mode.
This committed and convincing avant-gardism is all the more intriguing when considered alongside Ono’s ongoing affinity for the American girl-group sound of the early Sixties. Inasmuch as her precariously pitched voice — which is not unattractive — does tend at times to drift into “Angel Baby” territory, this predilection for simple hooks and light, bouncy harmonies may be instinctive. Whatever the case, it’s genuinely charming, and “My Man,” the album’s single, is as forthright and engaging in its woozy sentimentality as, say, “Bobby’s Girl.”
This is not to denigrate Ono’s latest batch of lyrics, the bulk of which deal with her unabated feelings of loss over Lennon. But as that senseless event recedes in time — along with the bad old buzz about her being “the woman who broke up the Beatles” — we may begin at last to see Ono as an artist of unique resources in her own right. Ono could hasten this perception by assembling her own recording band: the array of studio pros she currently employs are certainly slick, but they add no saving grace to such marginal tracks as the tuneless sub-reggae “Wake Up” and the equally anemic “Tomorrow May Never Come.” Ono’s quirky gift for melody, her engaging experimentalism and her refreshing optimism are qualities that could win her an audience well beyond the hard-core Lennon cult.