Yoko Ono the peace loving prose-poet, Kim Gordon the versatile avant-garde artist/designer/director and Thurston Moore the prolific punk front man of Sonic Youth get even weirder when they’re together. The appropriately-titled collaborative album YOKOKIMTHURSTON is what you might expect to happen when three really odd, experimental musicians mess around in a studio. Each artist is known for his or her unique personality, and, with this album, it’s as if the three are competing for the title of most idiosyncratic. As it turns out, this wasn’t really the best move for the technically still-married couple Thurston and Kim, nor was it a good move for Yoko who, for a while, seemed like she was becoming slightly normal. No surprise this collaboration is really weird. Yoko Ono varies from high-pitched squeals to moans over ambient guitar, and Thurston More randomly shouts out words that seem to have no connection to one another for the entire album. There is little variety to each track. The tracks are really difficult to discern from one another. It’s not that there’s a problem with cohesiveness and fluency, but there is a difference between fluency and uniformity.
Yes, YOKOKIMTHURSTON is strange and unusual, but it’s also incredibly predictable. It employs a lot of the creative tactics that Lennon experimented with. The first track is introduced by the shrieking cackle of Ono, alongside a kaleidoscope of mismatched snippets of sound. “I Never Told You Did I?”—perhaps the most lyrical song on the album—is a mix of heavy breathing and what one could kind of, maybe, define as spoken word. In both of these tracks and throughout the rest of the album, none of the defining characteristics of each artist shines through. Instead their weirdness blends into something inaccessible and unappealing. Imagine those bizarre backfill tracks your college radio station seems to always be playing.
The beauty of avant-garde music typically comes with the artistic or political statement that is associated with it. But it’s completely indiscernible what YOKOKIMTHURSTON is trying to convey. If there’s some deeper meaning here, it went way above my head. And, if I know anything about how Thurston and Kim make records, this probably isn’t some grand, hyper-conscious concept album.
I hate to be a slave to traditional structure, but I think if YOKOKIMTHURSTON lent itself to some melodies, they could have created something fantastic. Come on, Thurston, people are even digging the black metal scene you have gotten into, and Yoko, apparently people liked Between My Head and the Sky. Everyone was expecting something weird, but we also expected something interesting.