Sharps & flats

Cibo Matto's "Viva! La Woman" rewired hip hop in the same way that riot grrrls reinvented punk. What happened on "Stereotype A"?

Topics: Music,

It was spring 1996 and on my MTV, two itty-bitty-pretty-gritty Asian women were on “The Jon Stewart Show” jumping up and down on two ittier, bittier beds yelling, “I know my chicken/You gotta know your chicken.” Were Cibo Matto turning a pimp’s come-on into a culinary metaphor? Were they lampooning the boyish world of street-cred insiderism? Were they sensualizing one of Kathleen Hanna’s secret codes of riot grrrl identification? Were they any good?

Young, hip women had one answer for rocker boys like me: “Shut up and eeeeeat!” The cyber-sultry, slip ‘n’ slide streetscapes that Cibo Matto cooked up with producer Mitchell Froom on their debut, “Viva! La Woman,” were about as funky as a cold shower. But that was the point. Even at their cutest, amid songs about food like “Sugar Water” and “Birthday Cake,” Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda were openly confrontational, turning from coy cuties to yowling man-eaters at the drop of a beat. There may have been a guy behind the board creating the ambience, but in front of the mikes it was two Asian post-feminist DIY beat ‘n’ rhyme junkies using the man’s tools to create violent, dissonant, lyrically dense arty-party music that rewired hip hop in the same way that Bikini Kill reinvented punk.



Sadly, Cibo Matto’s follow-up, “Stereotype A,” reduces them to ghosts in the man’s machine, disembodied dolls floating through a passionless studioscape of bossa pop, lite electro-funk and funless alt-rock produced, ironically enough, by Honda herself. When Hatori sings, “I feel I’m alone again … You are already miles away” during the mirthlessly sunny “Flowers,” she might as well be singing to her detached partner behind the board. And while the “Pet Sounds” reference in “Working for Vacation” suggests they’ve given up the hip-hop aggression of “Viva!” to chase the voguish visions of art-pop romanticism (first heard on their “Super Relax” remix project in 1997), the escapist fluff of cuts like “Spoon” and “Moonchild” is as shallow and kitschy as the similar confections of new band member Sean Lennon. Likewise, their attempts to summon venom during the sludge-rocker “Blue Train” and the admirably grating “Mortming” fall as flat as old Cristal. I always knew the women jumping on those beds were well aware of their disposability — hell, it was half of their appeal — but I never thought they’d go out like such wimps.

Jon Dolan lives in Minneapolis and writes for several publications, including Spin, City Pages and barnes&noble.com. His reviews of the top albums on the Billboard 200 appear in Salon every week.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>