Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Weird and melodic New York / Japanese rock from Cibo Matto

I am fascinated by Japan. I love their food, their music, their art… OK, and their porn. Clearly I am not alone either, as proven by the popularity of shows like Ninja Warrior, Iron Chef, and Death Note. You don’t see shows from Turkey, Brazil, India, Kenya, China or anywhere else, really, broadcast in the States. Just Japanese TV. Japanese manga, books, and even music survive occasionally hilarious translation to be popular in America as well.

Though the culture boom of a few decades ago is largely over, the Japanese still have a fascination with things American, too. American food, for example, is widespread in Japan. Major American movies and music still get some play in Japan as well. I find the cultural affinity interesting. I don’t know what it is about our two peoples that gives us so much in common.


One such Japanese export that I absolutely love was the duo of Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda, who in 1994 became Cibo Matto (Italian for “Crazy Food”). Their sound is hard to categorize. You can hear trip hop, Japanese rock, a little jazz, and a smattering of other world influences (Brazilian?). You kind of have to hear it. They rap, they croon. Some songs are beautiful, some are brutal. An LA Times article explains that the group was never very popular in Japan and their first full-length album, ‘Viva! La Woman,’ sold more than 3 times as many albums in the U.S. than it ever did in their native country.

Their second LP, “Stereo * Type A,” came out in 1999 and is the subject of my post today. Not all of the disc is good, and a couple of tunes are frankly awful (Blue Train, Sci Fi Wasabi), but I have ripped half of the album to my iPod and I have never gotten tired of any of those.

  • Working for Vacation – Spacy keyboards and a weird rap make up the verses, but the harmony vocals in the chorus are fabulous.
  • Spoon – This is probably my favorite song on the disc. Everything is working: a catchy beat, great vocals, pocket bass work, tasteful keyboards, a cool acoustic guitar solo, a funky horn arrangement, and great production. All in all, it was a fine moment in the studio.
  • Flowers – Hatori and Honda harmonize very well together and make this relatively innocuous pop song really sparkle.
  • Moonchild – My daughter loves this beautiful song about a breakup. “Moonchild still within my heart. Can I ask you something? Is your life better now?”
  • Speechless – The ladies flash a little more hip hop on this track. It gets a little weird, but it’s engaging and the horns are excellent.
  • King of Silence – I found a really good live recording of this love song on YouTube from 1999. Check it out; they sound great.
  • Stone – This is just a sweet little groove that once again hangs on the pretty harmony vocals.

Interestingly, they were joined on this album by Sean Lennon, who played bass and subsequently toured with them. That got them a lot of press, naturally. Sadlly, the band broke up in 2001. Both founding members continue to work in music. Honda has played with The Beastie Boys, Tricky, Los Lobos, Yoko Ono, and many others. Hatori has also collaborated with many musicians and was the first voice of Gorillaz member Noodle.


April 27, 2010 - Posted by | Electronica, Hip Hop, Popular, Rock, Uncategorized, World Music

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