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July 1999
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Cibo Matto Stereo*Type A (Warner Bros.)

Luscious Jackson Electric Honey (Grand Royal/Capitol)

Two reviews by Courtney Knopf

Back in 1991, Luscious Jackson had the illustrious distinction of being the first band signed on the Beastie Boys' label, Grand Royal. Drummer Kate Schellenbach even played with the B-Boys for some time in the early 80's. Now, eight years later, the band that took it's name from a player from the Philidelphia 76ers, have graced us with a third full length album, Electric Honey. Their first foray without keyboardist Vivian Trimble, who left the band in 1998 after tiring of life on the road, is a fresh pastiche of funky beats, lilting vocal harmonies and an all-star line up of guest performers.

The sublimely beautiful first single, "Ladyfingers," is propelled by an acoustic guitar melded seamlessly with the thumping bass line, and also features Emmylou Harris on backing vocals. On "Christine," lead vocalist Jill Cunniff does a langid, drum and bass driven take on the blues about a young girl who stays up late playing the guitar. Producer Daniel Lanois makes an appearance on the slide guitar and N'Dea Davenport lends her voice to the backing vocals of the track.

"Sexy Hypnotist" and "Devotion" are the shining moments of the album, one about a casino bride who likes to clean up at the tables, and the other about an 'underwater fraulein' singing to her long laust daughter. Both dare you not to sing along, and go find a block party to DJ at. Deborah Harry does guest vocal work on the unfortunately flawed "Fantastic Fabulous," which starts out much like a new wave version of "My Boyfriend's Back" but flounders for meaning. And speaking of guest performers, Petra Haden of the defunct Silverlake quartet that dog. plays violin on the funky "Space Divas." Interesting really, because if the girls in that dog. had been raised in New York City rather than Los Angeles, they probably would have ended up sounding a lot like Luscious Jackson, and vice versa.

In Italian, Cibo Matto means "Food Crazy," and taking a listen to their first album Viva La Woman! it was clear that Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori, to Japanese girls who had transplanted themselves to new York City, were indeed food crazy. With songs like "Birthday Cake," "White Pepper Ice Cream", "Know Your Chicken" and "Beef Jerky," it's a wonder that their new album is almost completely devoid of food references. Stereo*Type A, Cibo Matto's second full length album is a mixed plate of everything from bossa nova to metal to hip hop to jazz.

Newly fleshed out with the addition of Sean Lennon and Timo Ellis as permanent fixtures, Cibo Matto have fine tuned the sound that made their debut Viva La Woman! the surprise indie hit of 1996. But Stereo*Type A is much easier to listen to than its less-than-accessible predecessor. Both Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori have evolved as musicians, and are much more comfortable with what they're doing. Produced entirely by Honda, Stereo*Type A is a much more cohesive and smooth effort.

"Spoon," a track that had previously been tinkered with on their EP Super Relax, comes to fruition and, with the aid of a number of drum tracks, drops a real big beat with it. "Flowers" is a mid tempo samba that incorporates Miho Hatori's intense love of Latin music, and has her singing about preferring certain words to a big bouquet of flowers. "The Lint Of Love," which was inspired by a lint-removal machine given to Hatori by her stepmother, features a funky fuzz bass and sounds more than a little inspired by Prince back before he was that damn glyph. The song, which includes a rap interlude as well as a grinding heavy metal guitar riff is simply a tour de force. Says Hatori, "This is like a Parliament song where everyone gets to sing."

Not abandoning their love for food entirely, "Sci-Fi Wasabi" will probably be the track most remembered from this album. Something that could be used before Knicks games to pump up the crowd, "Sci-Fi Wasabi" is a quintessentially New York song, and finds Miho kookily rapping about Obi Wan Kenobi, Union Square, St. Mark's Place, Moby and Volvic bottled water.

"Clouds" is a collaboration with Buffalo Daughter's Zak and Yumiko Ohno, and has a really spaced out, multi-textured feel to it. Probably the most shocking track on the album is "Blue Train," a straight piece of grinding, hard rocking heavy metal with Hatori shouting into the microphone with all the fervor of Dave Mustaine. The blending of styles is really what gives Cibo Matto strength, because if the 90's have been about anything, it's pastiche. Catching on to this, Honda, Hatori, Ellis and Lennon blend old school and new school with equal facility and give it their own trademark funked-out sound.

Electric Honey: B [87%]

Stereo*Type A: A [94%]

Buy Electric Honey at Amazon.com!

Buy Stereo*Type A at Amazon.com!

You can catch Luscious Jackson and Cibo Matto on tour this summer as part of the Lillith Fair, and will be headlining some dates together in the late summer. Check www.grandroyal.com or www.cibomatto.com for specifics.

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