Review Summary: Yeah, it's that unfinished.
Everyone knows the story. By late 1968, John Lennon was just about over his life as a Beatle. As he indulged himself more and more in LSD, his drug use and personal life became much publicized. During that period his marriage hit rock bottom, and he started a relationship alongside Yoko Ono, an avant-garde artist from Japan. During '68 and '69, they recorded the highly controversial "trilogy" of experimental albums, comprised of Unfinished Music
(Volumes 1 and 2), one of which became more notorious for the cover than the music itself, and an equally provocative and baffling Wedding Album
. In many ways, Lennon and Ono's second output of the trilogy, Unfinished Music No.2
is a reflex of the artists' lives during the time of the recording. It's echoed by drugs, crazy and limitless, but it's honestly not that great.
That's right, Unfinished Music No.2
is bad. It's the sonic representation of a man struggling to overcome a bad hangover, passing out on the floor constantly and vomiting multicolored fluids over a 24 hour loop of "Yellow Submarine". In fact, it's so bad it'd be so easy to turn the present review into a rant. However, the reviewer will try hard not to do so, and will instead present his reasons as to why the album is, in fact, rubbish. Problems regarding the album begin to creep up as soon as it starts: the entire Side 1 is made up of an overwhelmingly long piece, "Cambridge 1969". The song, which is over 26 minutes long, almost solely consists of Yoko's improvised wailing and screaming, and John's feedback in his guitar. A saxophone and percussion join in near the end, but Ono garners all the attention, much for the wrong reasons. Her wailing becomes insufferable after 5 minutes, let alone the actual duration of the piece. It's borderline self-indulgent and pretty much pointless.
After a near insufferable Side 1, "No Bed For Beatle John" opens up Side 2, evidencing a lamentable continuation of the meandering, experimental and self centered musical improvisation John and Yoko venture into on the album. In an a cappella register, which clearly isn't trying to excel technically, Ono sings about how a hospital allegedly wouldn't give Lennon a bed to accompany her during her miscarriage and EMI refusing to distribute "Unfinished Music No.1" due to the controversial cover. Unfortunately, "No Bed For Beatle John" almost comes out as a continuation of "Cambridge 1969", only much shorter and now having actual lyrics. Sadly, it's just as musically unexciting, and even slightly arrogant lyrically. As for the remainder of the album, it delivers exactly what it promises. "Baby's Heartbeat" and "Two Minutes Of Silence" have very literal titles, and "Radio Play" is precisely 13 minutes of Lennon picking up random radio stations, turning his radio on and off constantly. You guessed correctly, it's not great. Not even close.
I guess it could be commendable that John Lennon and Yoko Ono wanted to record an album that reflected how a regular day in the life they had was. To write an album that defied rules, that defied structure. To experiment in any way they found possible. To scream, wail, twist and shout just for the fun of it. But just because you're having a blast, it doesn't mean anyone else who listens to the album will feel the same. And let's face it, as far as experimental albums go, there are plenty of better ones you could find and listen to instead. It's so easy to label music a majority of people hate as art. However, some people beg to differ. Hearing Yoko Ono's pointless and annoying screaming over 23 minutes, or even Lennon going back and forth between every single radio station in the car radio for almost 15 minutes..., some people can't justify that as "art", as "genius". Make no mistake, Unfinished Music No. 2
certainly isn't genius. Bold? Maybe. Daring? For sure. But that doesn't keep it from being rubbish.