Artist Spotlight: Cibo Matto, music

Artist Spotlight: Cibo Matto (week two)

Every month, Memories of Shibuya will be taking a look at a different artist or group, with featured songs – one per week – highlighting the peaks of their musical career.

Last week, Cibo Matto asked us if we knew our chicken, assuring us that we have got to know our chicken. What came next for the group, though? Read on to find out!

Cibo Matto’s VIVA! La Woman album, easily their most popular release, announced the group’s arrival on the alternative scene in a big way. Riding the new wave of quirky indie groups with videos directed by Michel Gondry (such as the “Sugar Water” clip featured above), as well as exploiting media hype that was eager to find the next hot thing out of Japan (regardless of the fact that Cibo Matto is, for all intents and purposes, an American group), they found their niche and proceeded to fill the hell out of it. The group’s members would go on to become well nigh-omnipresent in American alternative throughout the ’90s, with collaborations with Beck, Beastie Boys, Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz and others making sure that no alternative CD collection was complete without at least a couple Miho Hattori guest spots. The Engrish kitsch of their debut was amplified on VIVA! La Woman, Miho and Yuka both clearly recognizing that they found something that worked; lyrical subject matter ranged from food to crazy food (“Cibo Matto” is Italian for just that), with a few food-related stops in between. That the album’s title and artwork would seem to imply some kind of feminist statement was completely inconsequential – if there was indeed any feminist message to be found amongst the oddly-pronounced and frequently profane lyrics about odd meals, it was completely and hopelessly lost somewhere in the recording process. VIVA! La Woman is pure pop kitsch, a bubbly indulgence every bit as empty and enjoyable as the junk food its lyrics so often reference.

While Cibo Matto would later go on to more varied subject matter and complex musicianship (their next album, Stereo Type A, would be the group’s first with a band instead of just the two girls and a sampler), VIVA! La Woman is the purest expression of their original intent; a silly, fun ’90s alternative act that functioned as an effective foil to the Beastie Boys. While the groups sounded similar, and members of each worked with the other group often throughout the decade, they were for the most part complementary opposites. Yin and yang, if you will.

Part one, part three, part four.


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