It’s unclear if Cibo Matto have left a proper legacy within pop music since their last studio album 15 years ago, but it’s hard to approach their new record Hotel Valentine without hearing a kernal of what they do refracted through today’s oddball comedy-rap starlets like Kittie Pryde, Kreayshawn or Awkwafina. In this sense, the Japanese girl duo are originals within a brand of party pop that pairs cuteness with fierceness, levity with philosophy and purpose with unhinged surrealism.
Hotel Valentine is something of a concept album, wherein the listener goes through “Check In” and “Check Out,” dwells in the “Lobby,” encounters “Housekeeping” and floats in an “Empty Pool.” Throughout, Miho Hatori repeatedly identifies herself as a “10th Floor Ghost Girl,” haunting the record with vaguely disembodied but sharply observant choruses, raps and monologues. The band’s trademark food references are still there (“Don’t tell me what to do, I’m a ghost/Don’t throw the fucking oyster shell at me!”), mixed with allusions to Nabokov, observations of NYC tourists and meditations on freedom and what it means to have a body. It’s possible that the whole thing is a metaphor for the afterlife or just a stoned daydream. “He made a big stain but it wasn’t chianti/I closed my eyes, I took your weed (got hiiiiigh!)” she raps on “Housekeeping,” and from this lifted vantage maks these “deep thoughts” on “Lobby”: “I wonder how many people know their life is like this, staying at a hotel, renting time, renting a body?”
Any way you read them, the one-liners land like Yoko Ono’s tweets (“Imagine letting a goldfish swim across the sky. . . . Make one tunafish sandwich and eat.”) and just as importantly, the tracking and production is impeccable, harking back to the collagist funk of late-’90s Beck records like Odelay and Midnight Vultures. There may even be a Raekwon sample in “Déjà Vu.” Hell, just watch the YouTube vid for album single “Mfn,” featuring Reggie Watts. It’s the most beautiful seizure you’ll have all day.