Cibo Matto
Viva! La Woman



by Jared Floryan USER (16 Reviews)
March 12th, 2016 | 9 replies

Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Food for thought.

Living off the fat of the land is such sweet thunder, particularly as far as middle-class people are concerned. With all the free booze, vehicles, girls, and Bob Ross DVD sets at mankind's very leisure, you've got yourself untold riches leading up to achieving a key to the city, while everyone else around you grows envious. However, this doesn't quite sit well with everybody. In the world that we as humans inhabit, there exist three types of specimens: victors, runner-ups, and of course Aquamen - the latter of which I can't help but sympathize with. For the longest time, whoever is deemed an Aquaman will suffer both physically and emotionally, whether they're getting mercilessly mocked or attacked from up, down, and all around. To really pour salt into the open wound, the Aquamen in this surprisingly unique universe are often deprived of nutriments; because without a decent number of commons, there is a chance they will pass away. The numerous hardships that befell this group notwithstanding, they prove not to be entirely forlorn. One fateful night, as the Aquamen were fixing to become lifeless husks, they were visited by two travelers who possessed delicacies and libations of all kinds. Putting the duo's unpolished accents aside, their patients knew what they were trying to convey - and as the weeks went on, the Aquaman class felt reinvigorated, expressing vast gratitude to Shibuya-kei expats Cibo Matto.

Having taken their moniker from an Italian phrase that meant "crazy food", Cibo Matto are quite the interesting duo, to say the least. On top of living in the Big Apple, the fact that they choose not to sing in their native tongue but instead English for the most part is rather amusing, and their popularity in the United States is proof of that alongside the wide range of musical styles they play around with. Prior to Cibo Matto, Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda had previously worked together in a noise rock unit named Leitoh Lychee. Both of these women were raised in Japan, but met in New York's 90s Lower East Side art scene, which included the likes of Beastie Boys, mad saxophonist John Zorn, and even John Lennon and Yoko Ono's son (Sean). Within six months when CM became a thing, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne went to one of their shows, eventually culminating in Warner Brothers picking them up following a self-released EP that dropped in 1995. From there, it was but smooth sailing for these kooky girls, and from the smoke rose their first major-label album and official debut recording.

Entitled Viva! La Woman, Cibo Matto's starter LP knows how to make a nice impression. Among other things, album opener "Apple" kicks off with a rather meditative bang, incorporating heavy usage of percussion and a reflective atmosphere that sounds far too good to pass up. Vocalist Miho's subdued howls as well as the abstract, emotionally-driven lyricism ("I heard her singing"/"Her tears tasted so sweet") further compliment the track's generally thoughtful vibe. This leaves nine additional songs on the record, most of which are able to enhance Viva! La Woman's replay value greatly. Clocking in at 48 minutes, CM's first full-length offering is like a relatively short movie that is centered around Hatori and Honda's respective fantasies, and the encompassing genres do a splendid job at reinforcing this claim. From a stylistic standpoint, the LP's urban feel is greeted by influences of pop, rock, jazz, and trip hop, and due to its overall varied personality, no three tunes on here are similar by much. "Beef Jerky"'s upbeat, funk-inspired tone coupled with that particular track's odd lines ("Who cares" I don't care"/"A horse's ass is better than yours") is merely the tip of the iceberg. One of my personal favorites off the record, titled "Sugar Water", is unflappable in disposition and yet so enticing in execution. Miho's beautiful singing is showcased the best here next to the ethereal harmonies and acoustic guitar playing presented by Yuka. It's not tough to see why this was ever a modest college radio and dance hit when it initially hit the airwaves.

Thematically speaking, CM's freshman affair features a decent range of moods that permeate the sounds and behavior rather admirably. As the band name and the song titles off this record indicate, the bulk of Viva! revolves around nourishments; for example, the ninth track "Le Pain Perdu" is literally French for "lost bread", which can also translate to French toast. It should be noted that many whom have tackled the release dismissed this duo's debut album largely for this reason alone, perceiving the material as gimmicky in the process. Be that as it may, what most critics failed to realize is that the references to food are roundabout metaphors which actually hold deeper meanings. "Birthday Cake", one of the more eccentric ditties on here, creates lyrical dissonance when listeners take into consideration that the Vietnam War is name dropped. The same track also boasts an unconditional love-like mindset throughout its structure while Miho essentially yells the words that were penned down. The aforementioned "Sugar Water" is a narrative that contains no explicit meaning, although camels and the speaker in a moon singing to the earth are prevalent during the pre-chorus sections. To imagine a scenario like that with this sample-heavy tune being played at full blast is nothing short of stimulating. CM are as ingenious in this regard as they are in terms of their songwriting credentials.

Instrumentation-wise, Viva! couldn't be any cooler, as multiple instruments are utilized to create a less one-dimensional style altogether, appropriately enough. A metronome and organ infest a giant portion of album closer "Artichoke", which is a haunting number that features these squealing atonal effects and Miho's uncomfortable whispering. A lot of the heavy lifting is done by second banana Yuka Honda, as she mans the background while champion Miho Hatori uses different vocalizations to suit the aura of whatever song is most justified for a specific technique. The latter is loud and upfront on certain tracks like "Birthday Cake", but downright rhythmic on numbers such as the undeniably catchy, rap-tinged "Le Pain Perdu". Hatori isn't always flexible and her blatantly Japanese accent will make or break a majority of what comprises CM's beginner hatchling, but for what it's worth, her overall performance has a dash of identity to it that just can't be ignored. The production values are handled by Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake: a double team who understand CM just as much as they have the power to comprehend themselves. Full-length #1 has an organic, crisp spirit that reflects a live setting incredibly well, being neither too overbearing nor underwhelming in the slightest. Consumers are able to hear just about everything this record has in store for them, ranging from the somewhat altered moans via "Apple" to the smooth transitions demonstrated in the 10-minute epic that is simply named "Theme", which includes Miho vocalizing in multiple languages.

As a studio recording, Viva! La Woman definitely houses a lot that goes on within the album's length. Taking the LP's variety and Gemini subject matter into account, it's not necessarily an easy listening experience. Repetitious visits act as a friend for this kind of music release. Fortunately, once you let Cibo Matto's major-label debut grow on you, it can and will function as a bus ride that's nigh-consistently mystical and colorful. For those who prefer to think outside the box for a little, Viva! La Woman is an interesting party in of itself.


Angel recommends
  • Apple
  • Sugar Water
  • Theme
  • Artichoke

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Comments:Add a Comment 
March 12th 2016


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Always wanted to get around to writing a rev up for this one. Fantastic record. Constructive criticism is welcome.

March 12th 2016


You don't do it all that much, but when you do write a review it's 100%, totally class dude. Easy, easy pos.
I listened to this about 6 months ago when looking for shibuya-kei and liked it, but never returned to it for some reason. May give it a revisit soon.

March 12th 2016


is this the album that has sci-fi wasabi on it? I love that song!!

March 12th 2016


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

"is this the album that has sci-fi wasabi on it? I love that song!!"

That song is on this album's successor, Stereo-Type A, which I do plan on jamming at some point.

March 12th 2016


Terrific review! Sounds like a pretty crazy album.

March 12th 2016



November 28th 2018


Watching buddy the vampire Slayer for the first time ever, digging the show and this band comes on in a scene and I'm like, "yo I gotta check this band out", sounds like good trip hop

January 12th 2019


Album Rating: 4.0

Sometimes over the top, sometimes sweet, and just plain fantastic. Though I like Stereotype A better, there's no way I'm not gonna jam this album to hell in 2019.

June 20th 2019


Album Rating: 4.5

Holy shit this is amazing. The lyrics dont really make sense but the atmosphere on this is something to behold

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