Various Artists: Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono Review – A Tribute to the Brilliant Music of a Rock Icon | Yoko Ono
Yesoko Ono is one of the biggest names in rock history – and yet his music is often overlooked, if not actively ignored. Years of frustration with this state of affairs motivated Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard to lead this tribute album, intended to demonstrate the breadth, charm and brilliance of his output. Gibbard isn’t the first person to try to save Ono’s reputation, but the crack crew he’s assembled to cover his songs – David Byrne, the Flaming Lips, Sharon Van Etten, US Girls, Sudan Archives , Japanese Breakfast – will appeal to listeners before. unaware of the source material.
Along the same lines, numerous covers make Ono’s strongly idiosyncratic, almost alien songs more palatable. Sometimes that just means exposing the crowd-pleasing beauty that lingers just below the surface, like on Jay Som’s sublime dream-pop revamp of Growing Pain. Others iron out some of the core quirks: Byrne and Yo La Tengo’s barbershop-style sonic version of Who Has Seen the Wind is far less shocking than the original’s haunting childlike vocals and Elizabethan-style instrumental. It’s only the Flaming Lips that manage to make Ono weirder, adding extra trippin to Mrs. Lennon.
One wonders if Ocean Child’s tendency to replace the startling weirdness of Ono’s originals with something easier to hear is doing her a disservice: in 2016, she said she thought her “music was beautiful from the start. This album proves there’s an appeal to his songwriting that goes far beyond his own inimitable presence – but it’s hard not to miss that presence. In fact, it is impossible not to repeatedly deactivate Ocean Child and instead seek the originality and uniqueness of the genuine article. Presumably, that’s what Gibbard would want.