Review by: Jeremiah Methven
Album assigned by: Pedro Henrique Reschke
My first reaction to this album was “God, how late 90s this sounds.” Cibo Matto draws from an eclectic group of influences – hip hop, lounge pop, bossa nova, 90s dance music – yet they also seem to all be sounds that were trendy in 1999 and are not so much now. That’s not inherently a bad thing I suppose, but it did take me a few listens to overcome my initial bias. As my wife astutely pointed out at one point – “This sounds like a band that would be playing at The Bronze (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Still, there is a lot of diversity here, and the singing of Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda is a clear strength throughout the album – they provide some definite passion that elevates the material. Overall, I’ve liked the album more and more with each listen, although I really wish they hadn’t tried to rap…
The first five tracks are all really good and went a long way towards me getting into this album. The opener “Working for Vacation” screams late 90s at me but has a nice poppy chorus so I overall enjoy it. “Spoon” is a clear highlight – it rides a nice bass groove and the vocals are nicely atmospheric with some long held notes in the verse. “Flowers” is a legit bossa nova and is another enjoyable track all the way through. “Lint of Love” avoids wearing out its welcome even at 6 minutes with some nice popping guitar carrying the verses, and strong singing in the chorus, then really goes all over the place from there, with a guest rap, horn sections, and some heavy metal guitar riffage towards the end. And “Moonchild” (NOT a King Crimson cover) is another really strong track – it has a very chilled-out vibe with some pretty acoustic guitar in the background and again, passionate vocals that prevent it from becoming a boring ballad.
From there, it’s a little more inconsistent. “Sci-Fi Wasabi” signals what I don’t like about this album- it has a pretty nice beat I admit, and I know it’s supposed to be a goofy track, but the rapping of Hatori and Honda is just so awkward, it’s really hard for me to get past. This applies even more so to the other hip-hop tracks on the album – “Speechless” has a catchy chorus at least but “Sunday Part I” I just can’t get into. Still, there are some nice tracks on the back half of the album – I enjoy their laid-back tracks like “Clouds” more with heavily distorted vocals in the verses that set up nicely for a more melodic chorus, the horn-led ballad “King of Silence” and the gentle synth groove “Sunday Part II”. And there are some more genre experiments that are worth noting and add some good diversity – like the almost heavy metal “Blue Train” and the trippy closer “Mortming” with several weird vocal samples.
I actually was planning on writing a more negative review of this album at first, but as I listened to it again, I liked the second half a lot more than I did a week or two ago, and really apart from the hip-hop tracks, everything has grown on me. So in the end, definitely a nice album, although maybe not one that has escaped its time capsule, nor would I say I’d necessarily return to it again.
Wait, I just read on Wikipedia that Sean Lennon was in this band. How did I not know that?? I take it all back, 10/10!!