Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Seven Layers of Time


Original Facebook post here.
Today's formative-album replay: Cibo Matto, Stereo Type A. One measure of a record's impact on me is whether it drives me to my instruments to try to learn its tunes; that was certainly the case with Rufus Wainwright's first two records, and with more than a few of Elvis Costello's. And it was definitely true of this 1999 classic from this short-lived New York duo, which is leaps and bounds better than their diverting but slightly shticky debut Viva La Woman! Here the thick-accented vocals/raps, and the lyrical preoccupation with food and clothes, are embedded in a richly embroided, endlessly tuneful popscape that put me in mind of Pet Sounds or the Beatles (the presence of Sean Lennon as a sideman/co-writer is not irrelevant here, though the only truly Beatle-esque song is the great bonus track "Backseat"). The harmony writing and genre-hopping songcraft also put me in mind, just a little, of Difford & Tilbrook, though I know of no Squeeze song that would dare to embellish Prince-style funk with crunching metal guitar and a trombone solo ("Lint of Love").

The album's nods to bossa nova, though, are what thread it all together somehow--indeed, many of the songs here have that chromatic, bassline-driven, extended-chord feeling that characterizes a lot of Brazilian music. I'd listened to plenty of Jobim and studied some jazz theory, but it took these catchy, offbeat songs by two Japanese expats to get me curious enough about it to really look under the hood and figure it out. The experience of charting some of these songs (particularly the one linked above) led me directly to write my own bossa knockoff, "Quiet Girl."

But I value the wild, warm, capacious Stereo Type A for more than just the inspiration it awoke in me. It's a great, great pop record--great enough, I guess, to make up for the fact that it was also, sadly, Cibo Matto's last.

Comments:
Brent Hinkley Another of my faves
Chris Wells LOVE this album.
Tom Penketh LOVE Cibo Matto. They seemed to just disappear one day. Thanks for reminding me about them. Wonder if they are on Spotify...
Bradford Jones But it's moldy, mom, isn't it? (yeah, I'm a viva La Woman guy.)
Mark Watkins I don't think it was financially successful. Honda went on to romantic and/or music related relationships with Sean and/or Yoko. Viva La Woman is catchier and more idiosyncratic to me, but there's a million opinions in the big city
Rob Weinert-Kendt Look, I love VIVA LA WOMAN, but to my ears it compares to the genius of STEREO TYPE A like A HARD DAY'S NIGHT to SGT PEPPER'S.
 

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