Let's break it down: Yoko is considered by many to be the evil force that broke up the Beatles. She's also the inspiration and love interest of one of the great pop songwriters. So what exactly did Miles Kurosky and his bandmates in San Francisco's Beulah have in mind when they decided to name their third full-length after such a controversial character? Perhaps the rumors are true: This will be the record that finally explodes the notoriously fragile group. Or perhaps it is simply a testament to the music ultimately taking a back seat to the band members' love interests. While we may never know what prompted the album title, no one can argue the fact that Yoko entering the Beatles' recording studio inspired a distinct passion that didn't exist prior, which is exactly what permeates Beulah's latest collection of songs.
Regardless of title etymology, there's something different going on with Yoko, an urgency that wasn't there before. Whereas the sextet's previous efforts When Your Heartstrings Break and The Coast Is Never Clear presented the listener with the sort of sugary-pop kitsch that artsy college kids use for film school projects (not that that's a bad thing), Yoko finds the band embracing a curious new tenderness. Songs lilt and swing, drum fills are plentiful, majestic guitars charmingly weep, and Kurosky emotes every whisper and gush with intimate affection.
The record's most telling song, the album closer "Wipe Those Prints and Run," is an opus that joins rock history's most precious moments without sounding too derivative. It's as if the Beulah boys tapped the vein whence flowed Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks," Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon," and the Beatles' "Helter Skelter." By the end of the song, instruments have climaxed and broken down, but even in their sloppy, post-coital state, their remaining notes ache and glow.
Perhaps, then, it's worth remembering that while Yoko initially seemed to be the wrench in the well-oiled mop-top machine, the Fab Four did produce their most cohesive work, Abbey Road, in their Yoko existence.