Jan 25, 2012

John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions (1969)

1. Cambridge 1969 26:29
2. No Bed for Beatle John 4:41
3. Baby's Heartbeat 5:10
4. Two Minutes Silence 2:00
5. Radio Play 12:35

Bonus tracks

6. Song for John 1:31
7. Mulberry 8:58

The suggestion that any of the best-selling artists of today would have the balls to create something like Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions is laughable if not entirely unthinkable.

In 1970 Lennon would release John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band to great critical acclaim, getting praise for being one of the rawest and most honest popular albums of all time. Reliving childhood trauma on songs like Mother and My Mommy's Dead, declaring all idols dead on God, and pushing his cathartic primal scream to lengths arguably unmatched until Nirvana's In Utero 23 years later on tracks like Well, Well, Well, it's easy to see why it's still so loved. So what about Unfinished Music No. 2?

It's a universally loathed mess of an album often too painful in its aesthetic and content to listen to. And yet I love it. The content is so personal that it makes Lennon's 1970 album sound like I Want to Hold Your Hand being played 11 times . The cover shows Lennon and Ono in Queen Charlotte's Hospital following Ono's miscarriage. Baby's Heartbeat is a recording of the baby's heartbeat before the miscarriage. Two Minutes Silence commemorates this.

The album's aesthetic is totally unique also. Cambridge 1969 is the track which brings most people here. Lennon showcases some fantastic guitar and feedback over Ono's bizarre vocal improvisations. Things come together in the most chaotic way possible when they're joined by saxophonist John Tchicai and percussionist John Stevens towards the end of the track. It's excellent as a noisy improv track and then there's the fact that it's John Lennon in the same year that Abbey Road was to be released.

No Bed for Beatle John features the couple sing-reading news clipping about each other, which, given the context, adds to the freakishly personal nature of the album. Ono's very existence was painful to the public, blaming her for The Beatles' demise, so there's something strange and very sad about the couple acknowledging their public image whilst holed up in a hospital following a personal tragedy. The songs following Cambridge 1969 are isolated and claustrophobic avant-garde tracks like you wouldn't hear until Royal Trux did Twin Infinitives in 1990. Add everything mentioned before though and it's something infinitely more heart-rending.

Behold the ballsiest album by a popular artist ever! I've let the contextual information effect my description of each track, but even without it songs like Cambridge 1969 are totally necessary for anyone interested in noise or improvisation. For all I know they were just continuing to troll Beatles fans, but I don't really give a shit 'cause that track rules so hard.



1 comment:

  1. Imagine an entire world living in peace… John saw the beauty and inherent good in humanity. I tried to do his legacy justice and channel his world-embracing and loving energy this week with a tribute portrait inspired by his music and his passion for changing the world. You can see this new work of art in memoriam on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/12/john-lennon-just-imagine.html along with some pictures showing how I created it. See John holding the Universe in his hand and spreading his message. When you stop by, let me know how his words and music have affected your life and creativity!