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John Lennon - Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions - Album Review


Staff member
Most recognize art as a beautiful pictures or a creation that defies the norm. And then you have times where the two are put together, and this often comes with mixed results. Perhaps one of my favourite examples of this is Diamanda Galas' 17-minute piece "The Litanies of Satan" (which I've reviewed on this site), which is Galas herself reciting the titular poem through a filter of different, terrifying effects and at a number of octaves, making for one suitably hellish and nightmarish experience. The whole thing is torture to listen to due to not just its intensity, but its context and its atmosphere- even more impressively is that it was all done with one woman, two microphones and a single, paltry effects board. Is it music" Debatable. Is it art" Also debatable, but what isn't debatable is that it has your attention from the word "go". And while grabbing the listener's attention can be a good thing, it isn't always. I'd mention several things like that awful Miley Cyrus VMAs performance or Allison Gold, but those aren't exactly relevant, and they seem to have been done specifically for the purpose of grabbing your attention, nothing more. And one must wonder if that was exactly what mindset John Lennon had in mind when he thought of releasing this... uh, thing unto the world with his wife Yoko Ono. As a lot of you know, he released a trilogy of albums respectively known as the "Unfinished Music" trilogy, and all of said trilogy is about as insufferable and pretentious as they come.

Whereas The Wedding Album was at least so bad that you could listen to it and laugh at it for hours, no such salvation is found on Life With the Lions. Much like the aforementioned Wedding Album, this album is a tale of two sides, except this time around, we get one side-length composition and four tracks making up another side. And much like The Wedding Album, side one wastes no time being as insufferable and annoying as it possibly could. "Cambridge 1969" begins with Yoko Ono saying into a microphone, "This piece is called 'Cambridge 1969'." Almost immediately after, she lets out a loud screech into the microphone, so loud in fact that if you even have it at regular volume, you'll immediately run out of your house and in front of a moving car to make the pain stop. Okay, that's being a tad dramatic, but it's also a good sign of things to come: Yoko wails and screeches over John's guitar feedback for 26 fucking minutes. That's right, 4 goddamn minutes shy of a half-hour. There is zero musical OR artistic value to this at all; it literally is just Yoko wailing and screeching with absolutely zero context. Okay, I sort of lied about the "music" part. Some sax and percussion can be heard as this piece nears its end, but by then, it's way too late, and the damage done is irreversible. Annoying, pretentious, and too damn long, there's no reason to subject yourself to even 5 minutes of this piece when it's as annoying and insufferable as it is. Thankfully, things do (sort of) get better on side 2. Side 2 has "No Bed for Beatle John!", and it's mostly just Yoko Ono singing aloud newspaper articles, one about John Lennon being refused a bed while helping Yoko through her miscarriage and another being about the controversy that the Two Virgins sleeve stirred. Conceptually it's interesting, and it would have actually been decent if it was well-planned out and not just Yoko tunelessly moaning. The next two tracks basically are exactly what they say on the tin: "Baby's Heartbeat" and "Two Minutes Silence". I don't think I need to tell you which of the two tracks is the best. And finishing off this misery trip is "Radio Play", which is literally just 13 minutes of radio channels being switched. Thankfully it has the decency to be shorter than "Cambridge 1969". Unfortunately, it has the audacity to be every single fucking bit as annoying.

Tracklist for Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions:

1. Cambridge 1969

2. No Bed For Beatle John

3. Baby's Heartbeat

4. Two Minutes Silence

5. Radio Play