In my junior year of high school, I read about Cibo Matto in Spin and Rolling Stone magazines. The internet as we know it as a commercial enterprise was just getting going, and lord knows we didn’t even have cable in our household. They sounded interesting: two Japanese women, the singer writing songs about food because her English wasn’t so good. Hell, food is a metaphor for everything, right?
I didn’t buy Viva! La Woman then since I never heard them on the radio. I happened to catch a live performance of them on some PBS show. Then on some grainy UHF channel, I saw their video for “Know Your Chicken” and “Sugar Water”. Yet, I still didn’t buy their album. In fact it wasn’t until I was in college that I finally bought Cibo Matto.
After Stereotype A Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda went their separate ways to work on their projects. They reunited for a tsunami benefit concert in 2011, started touring and made this new album Hotel Valentine.
I did not like the new album at first. It’s a concept album about a haunted hotel, simply put. Musically it’s all over the place. But with each successive listen you get hooked into it more an more. After listening dispassionately at first, I found myself grooving to it while I was doing my Sunday cleaning. Like ghosts, the beats start haunting you until you get completely immersed in it. Next thing you know as I’m on my knees cleaning the toilet, I’m chanting along with Miho “Motherfucking Nature”.
I then realized that Viva! La Woman was the same way. There was the punk “Birthday Cake” mixed with the mournful “Artichoke” with the steel drums of “Thema” with the trip hop “Sugar Water” and the silliness of “Beef Jerky”. Hotel Valentine is similar but with more gloss thanks to nearly 20 years of technological advances in music production. “MFN” really shows that — it’s like looking back at history while moving forward at the same time.
Knowing they’re back together, it makes me wonder how we survived their 10-year hiatus.