Don't be deceived by the title of "Viva La Woman." Or, for that matter, by the metal-braed amazon on the cover. This album, by New York's expatriate duo Cibo Matto, lives up to the name of the band -- it is all about food. Their brand of trippy, sultry pop centers on apples, jerky, cake, chicken, and plenty of other foodstuffs.
It opens with the dark, plodding "Apple," before lurching into the hilarious, jazzy "Beef Jerky." Miho Hatori strikes just the right irreverent note as she sings a string of non sequiturs: "My weight is three hundred pounds/My favorite is beef jerky/I'm a vagabond, I'm a vagabond/My mom says, you are kinky."
From there on, Cibo Matto strikes the right balance between colorful pop and musical irreverence -- ambient sweeps, drum machines, surreal distortion, cutesy breakbeats, peculiar samples and trippy balladry. Above it all, Hatori offers bizarre recipes, tells you to know your chicken, and is shot with bullets of pepper. (I can't make this stuff up)
Certain bands are hard to describe, and even harder to pigeonhole. Cibo Matto is one such band, with their sparkling musical palette and their even more impressive menu. Really, how many bands are brave enough to compare all human emotions to foodstuffs?
Hatori lives up to her description in the liner notes -- she howls, raps, sings, moans and keens, sounding like a bubblegum popster on acid. It takes a pretty brave singer to howl "Extra sugar, extra salt/extra oil and MSG... Shut up and eat!/You know my love is sweet!" She's backed up by Yuka Honda's exquisitely mishmashy pop melodies, which are just a little too dark to be kitschy.
The lyrics are almost as wonderfully weird. At first glance, they look like a sequence of random food phrases strung together. But there are some clever puns woven in, especially in the finale "Artichoke," where Hatori compares her heart to an artichoke, and croons the double entendre: "Can you squeeze a lemon on me...?" Whoa, shades of Led Zeppelin.
Cibo Matto's "Viva La Woman" could have just as easily been "Viva La Lunch." This food-obsessed album is full of enchantingly offbeat pop, but shouldn't be listened to on an empty stomach.