John Lennon (1970)
Plastic Ono Band is the truth. Well, it’s one man’s truth, that is. That may not seem like much, but if you think about it, pop music is often just a big, convincing lie; constructed stories, manipulated sound waves, exaggerated histrionics and hypothetical scenarios conveyed by prefabricated personalities. Not POB. John Lennon was fresh out of the Beatles’ breakup, starting to examine his personal and emotional wounds in excruciating detail, and he was determined to tell everyone about it. In the midst of undergoing primal scream therapy, he decided to work some shrieks of agony into his solo debut. To accentuate them, he added precious little to the mix – plaintive piano, rattling bass and brutal drum work from Ringo Starr himself. The rest is history, as the unbelievably bleak and angry tone of this record was unlike anything done before in rock. It is extremely minimalistic and filled with painfully honest confessions, indictments and questions. It revolutionized the saccharine singer-songwriter genre, and helped make Lennon the icon he is today. His ideological stance here is still shocking, maybe even obscene (and could very well be the basis of punk music).
What does he discover over the course of this devastating LP? Loved ones die mercilessly for no good reason. Everything about modern popular culture is fake, deplorable and vile. Love is real, but tenuous and not entirely fulfilling. God is utterly fictional. Every human being is alone. The Beatles failed us and the dream is over. There isn’t a single easy answer. Even the musician himself tells us he’s confused and helpless. But most of all, the lesson of this emotionally wrenching journey (for both the artist and listener) informs every soul-searching guitar-and-vocals song to this day: The truth hurts.
Key track: “I Found Out”
See also: Imagine – John Lennon (1971), Walls And Bridges – John Lennon (1974)