Monday, June 18, 2007

No. 22: Plastic Ono Band

Band: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Album: Plastic Ono Band
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Well, to be honest, I'm not totally sure. Lennon's first solo album has a lot of critics' favorites -- and certainly some of the songs are pretty good -- but, it's a mostly uneven collection of a man considering himself an artist. There's a lot to be said of Lennon's personal-ness in the writing; Even the most honest songwriters (I'm thinking Lou Reed) weren't as blunt as Lennon was on this record.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: The album is mostly masturbatory therapy for a man who was deeply troubled at the time.
Best song: Probably "Working Class Hero." "Mother" and "God" aren't terrible and "Love" is decent.
Worst song: "Well Well Well" is gar-bage.
Is it awesome?: I don't think so.

Recorded after he went through "Primal Therapy" -- a technique that confronts trauma head-on and includes screaming a great deal, "Plastic Ono Band" is the first proper Lennon solo album. considered the driving force behind the Beatles' breakup (his brining Yoko into the studio all the time, his insisting on being the one to announce the split, etc.), an actual rock (as opposed to the avant garde "Two Virgins")record was eagerly awaited by the public.

The lyrics on "Plastic Ono Band" are Lennon's attempt to be more political and less subtle than his Beatles' work. The record has its hits and misses. "Working Class Hero" has the money line of "And you think you're so clever and classless and free, But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see."

Of all the Beatles, Lennon was clearly the one who wanted to put it behind him and this record screamed that loud and clear in another top track, "God." "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me" is remembered from the opening monologue of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," but it's just one in a number of loud and clear statements from a man who had mostly written in subtlety.

Critics love this album for good and bad reasons. As mentioned above, Lennon more personal and honest than anyone had previously been in their lyrics. Daring as this is, part of music is the poetry in the lyrics and I don't find the open rhymes and simple structure in the second half of "God" to be particularly enthralling. I don't care for religion either -- I worship the sun and mourn its passing everyday -- but the bluntness of Lennon's lyrics just don't float my boat.

Still, it was different. The honesty on "Plastic Ono Band" was striking, especially from a superduperstar like Lennon. That's a good reason to like the record, however much I'm not into it.

And, of course, the bad reason is that some people fancy Lennon to be a genius in everything he does. That's all good and well, but I think a lot of people gave Lennon a lot of slack. The second he started recording "normal" songs, they decided the songs were great, no matter the actual quality of the song.

That's not to say it's a terrible record. It's not. It's got some good songs. It's just not top 25 material.

1 comment:

bob_vinyl said...

I'm not a huge fan of Lennon without McCartney. John was good for the Beatles and they were good for him. He gave them an edge and an attitude and they kept him from being too self-indulgent (most of the time) and from playing philosopher/genius (which he most certainly was not).