Are You as Old as You are Poised?

Oh what a tasteful group!

Now that the lights are on, I can see just how tasteful you really are.

I just quoted Bette Middler. Don't judge me? Okay fine, judge me.

Ever since I was a wee and tender zygote, I have been dazzled by ladies who draw crowds. Who don't need to bare a thing. Who know exactly what they want to see and don't give a flying chinchilla what anybody else thinks. (added bonus: if they growl, I get extra happy)

I refuse to recognize Shiina Ringo's latest obsession, the collective Tokyo Jihen, as anything cool even though they completely are. Yet the declaration "I just saw Tokyo Jihen" somehow lacks panache to me. Yes, they are staggeringly good performers, achingly brilliant musicians (her appleship would have nothing less), and just the cat's meow but fuck me if I can remember their names. (Seiji Kameda on bass however is an exception as he is a multi-tasker) I saw Shiina Ringo live. There, that feels better.

I kinda wondered what the average Shiina Ringo fan looked like. Back home, I was by and large a hermit with my obsession. Oh, I had to fight for these tickets. They sold out faster than the Pocky du Jour. I had to score from a Yahoo auction to see my idol live in Niigata. The venue was not huge which I appreciated. Ringo doesn't do Tokyo Dome. That's for the screaming Gackt fans. The crowd was mostly my age, female and fashionably dressed.

Aside from the cosplayers. I may be mad but the last thing I ever cosplayed for was the "Brain Candy" premiere and I was all of 16 then and that is the only excuse I will make for myself. Some turned up in kimono. Ringo has a tendency to doll up in customary threads. If a kimono isn't tasteful, I don't know what is. I spied a nurse costume in the mix. A Shou Shou Stripper. Whatever dudes. Go ahead and be 16.

Ringo embraces the vintage. Her flavor is blending rock and jazz/enka. She didn't do it as skillfully on Tokyo Jihen's debut, Kyoiku. It was wise, however, to keep Seiji Kameda (bass) around. I always thought that even if I didn't particularly like Shiina's delivery of a song, her arranger was a genius. That genius was Kameda. He was her producer for Shou Shou Strip and his influence is prominent on Tokyo Jihen's second album, ADULT. How do I know this? Because behind every likeable Ringo tune there is a turtle field (亀Kame=turtle, 田da=field) and I like every song on it.

The stage was dominated by a huge projection of a Heian-era courtesan. When the room darkened, it went black and tiny points of projected snow flitted across the stage. Cue swirling piano. Enter Ringo. A vision in heavy white silk and black obi, carrying an umbrella and singing "Yuki Kuni" (Snow Country) with all the drama and flair of an abandoned diva, elegantly bitchy. She began delicate and ended with a bite. I swooned. The stage direction was outstanding. The Lady knows how to put on a show.

Other notable tracks from her latest offering are the infectious and nigh on bouncy "Toumei Ningen" (Invisible Human). I hear it and think of sunny streets and rousing musical finales. A happy ending hurrah. Then there's the majestique show-stopper, "Superstar". My personal favorite was not offered that night, a B side from one of her singles called "Kurumaya-san" (Car Salesman). A fusion of bluesy jazz or jazzy blues with some flaming enka in the cocktail. I adore it. There's also Keshou Naoshi (Redecoration) for those more into the bossa nova. Not as good as Miho Hatori's take on the genre (I like Miho' voice better with that shade) but still noteworthy.

On the subject of enka, I have been hooked on this ditty ever since I saw it lip-synched by the dashing and pouty Ryuhei Matsuda. Not since Duran Duran's heyday has pink lip gloss ever looked so stunning on a boy. The film is called "Showa Kayou Daizenshuu" (Showa Love Ballad Greatest Hits). A quirky underground comedy about a gang of middle aged housewives and jobless young men (two volatile and potentially dangerous groups who operate in packs) and their shared obsession--cheesy love ballads.

The song is called "Koi no Kisetsu" (Love Season) and it's by Pinky and the Killers. If Austin Powers were Japanese, this would be playing in his swank ride.

I will end with a guilty pleasure. I only like two things about Miyavi--his hair and one song. I could compare both to jellybeans. The song has an extravegantly long name and is reminiscent of rockabilly Green Day. In short, it's called "Kekkonshiki no Uta" or "Wedding Ceremony Song".

Songs to seek:

Yuki Kuni雪国/Toumei Ningen透明人間/Superstar/Kurumaya-san車やーさん/Keshou Naoshi化粧直し - TOKYO JIHEN 東京事変

Kisetsu no Koi 季節の恋/Pinky and the Killers ピンキとキラーズ

Kekkonshiki no Uta 結婚式の歌/Miyavi

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fans of Shiina Ringo shouldn't compare her to Tokyo Jihen. They appear to be crafted as two separate entities. I love Shiina Ringo, but I can also love Tokyo Jihen. I supposed if I was seeking a "Shiina Ringo"-like attribute to Tokyo Jihen, I would be disappointed. I must admit, the loss of HzM and Hirama Mikio definetly took a toll on the band's musical 'awe'.

11:23 AM, April 28, 2006  

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