My heart is like an artichoke
I eat petals myself one by one
Until I feel enough
Until I lose to laugh

-Cibo Matto, "Artichoke"

The mostly-Japanese, alt-pop band Cibo Matto's name literally means "food madness", in Italian, so it is no surprise that this band's first full-length album, Viva! La Woman (1996, Warner Music) has an selection of eclectically-named tracks, most of which involve various permutations of food. The track listing is as follows:

1. Apple
2. Beef Jerky
3. Sugar Water
4. White Pepper Ice Cream
5. Birthday Cake
6. Know Your Chicken
7. Theme
8. The Candy Man
9. Le Pain Perdu
10. Artichoke
11. (Untitled)

The eclecticity does not stop at the song titles, however. Viva! La Woman is an extremely curious album that blends backbeats, transcendent, seemingly free-form lyrics, and a myriad of diverse audio samples to create a soundscape that is as enticing as it is abstract. Although the heavy Japanese accent and sometimes broken English may, at first glance, seem to some like a gimmick, it becomes very evident to the listener that it is is simply another facet of this highly-textured album.

Bearing a slight bent towards the more absurdist sensibilities of Björk, Viva! La Woman came onto the scene during the advent of the so-called "trip-hop" genre, alongside releases by bands like Portishead and Morcheeba, and indeed, it enjoys a few of the same qualities. Viva!, however, is something akin to a lovechild sprung from the loins of some indie, art-house French film and P.T. Barnum. Indeed, while this album sometimes hovers on the fringes of the absurd, it just as quickly retreats back to more traditional, core musical compositions of pleasure, pain, and relationships. More disjointed Songs like "Beef Jerky" and the heavily-played "Know Your Chicken" are tempered by other, more-grounded pieces such as "Apple" or "Artichoke". Also of particular interest on this album is Cibo Matto's dusky cover of the childhood classic, "The Candy Man".

It is true that Cibo Matto may not be for everyone. However, Viva! is an album that should nonetheless be experienced in its entirety at least once, by many. A grand experiment in themes and sounds, it is as much a treat for the ears as the images implicit to the song titles might be to the tongue.

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