Now that indie rock’s caught up to where Yoko Ono was on her 1970 debut LP, her new album – her most challenging in more than three decades – fits the zeitgeist perfectly. The 10-minute opening track boldly announces her return to her roots, in the company of perfect companions Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Ono’s non-verbal vocalizing (until the last moment of the track, when we hear one word) and the metallic, clanging accompaniment are proudly improvisatory.
On the rather opposite following track, all three musicians deploy pre-fab spoken phrases in a sort of cut-and-paste style, with two minutes elapsing before the guitars enter and set up a raga-esque modal drone. There’s no shying away from emotion, either: The quietly intense “I Never Told You, Did I?” will tear your heart out, with its aching implication of regret. Here as on most tracks, Gordon’s cool voice adds contrast. Moore’s gently strummed groove on part of “Mirror Mirror” is the closest YOKOKIMTHURSTON comes to a “song.” Though the next two tracks are not stylistically different from what’s come before, the guitar timbres add variety. At the tender age of 79, Ono may have made her best album yet.