Cibo Matto – Pom Pom: The Essential Cibo Matto

Cibo Matto – Pom Pom: The Essential Cibo Matto – 4/5

A band that I’ve mentioned a few times in passing, but never seems to garner much attention. This, I have always considered a shame, as what we have is a Japanese band as crazy as it is intriguing. Now usually, I’m set against reviewing ‘best of’ albums, but seeing as they’ve only written 25 tracks, where 19 appear on this album, you’ll forgive me this once.

I feel I say this all too often with Japanese bands, but describing their sound is no easy task. Take influences from Trip-Hop (notably on ‘Sugarwater’), along with indie-rock, hip-hop and Jazz, as well as a number of other genres they produce a sound weird and unique, which their choice of subject matter doesn’t assist with. Cibo Matto (pronounced cheebo-marto) is Italian for ‘crazy food,’ which as you may have guessed, is a prominent feature in many of their songs. Titles such as ‘Beef Jerky,’ ‘Know Your Chicken,’ and ‘White Pepper Ice-Cream,’ leave no illusions in that regard.

The vocals are all in English, and actually sound less foreign than many bands from this country. And I don’t mean some Japanese-English, these girls are fully fluent and speak the language well, which leaves them capable of providing us with insightful lyrics such as:

“There was a man,
Selling chicks in a box.
He said, 2 for 1, but 3 for 2.
I said, thats not bad,
Heres money for you.
One was magenta,
The other was blue.” – Know Your Chicken

Did I mention they were crazy?

The vocals form the most prominent part of their music, with the use of synths, African style drumming, keyboards, the occasional saxophone and guitar work forming the backing. Normally, an album of this length (74mins) is likely to bore me relatively quickly, but the sheer number of styles successfully utilised makes each track left feeling fresh and independent of the rest, whilst retaining a sound that identifies them. From the soft, and trip-hop-esque ‘Swords and a Paintbrush,’ the electronic ‘White Pepper Ice-Cream,’ the hip-hop ‘Sci Fi Wasabi,’ the rock infused ‘Birthday Cake,’ or the slow jazz stylings in ‘Spoon,’ it should go without saying that it continually finds new ways to spark my interest.

This is the culmination of two young artists who have long since gone their separate ways. Nothing I’ve heard of them since has managed to captivate me like their early work, and I’ve failed to find another artist who has even attempted to do something similar. There is no pretentious styles here, no feeling of trying to ‘out-do’ another artist, this is pure and unadulterated Japanese brand insanity.

Highlights: Spoon, Sci-Fi Wasabi, Birthday Cake, Beef Jerky, Swords and a Paintbrush

By T. Bawden