In the John Lennon/Yoko Ono mythology, Lennon was the sincere melody maker lured into the avant garde by Ono, whose public reputation vacillated between wailing banshee and cerebral art bitch. Who would have figured Yoko Ono wrote pop songs too? Such are the surprises of Ono’s new album of “remixes.” Featuring a veritable who’s who of indie music (The Flaming Lips, Cat Power, Antony from Antony and The Johnsons), Ono is revealed as both a skilled, even touching, songwriter and also a moving singer.
Ono penetrated the collective musical conscious with dancefloor remixes, most spectacularly with 2003’s “Walking on Thin Ice,” which briefly hit Billboard’s top 10. But the electronica-inflected tracks reveal little that is new in Ono’s work, even when remade by artists like Peaches or Le Tigre whose feminist politics make them arguably her most direct artistic descendents. Instead, it is the least intuitive pairings that are most interesting. Ono’s trademark vibrato on “Revelations,” pared down by Cat Power to just vocals and piano, recalls the emotional flutter of an enka singer. “You and I,” as reworked by The Polyphonic Spree, has a tenderness recalling the last dance at senior prom.
Ono has always said that her visual art was essentially incomplete until the viewer filled in the blanks to complete it. Perhaps her music is the same.