Disclaimer: I have tried to write this post (or similar) about four times previously and each time have ended up sounding like a demented fanboy so if I get a bit enthusiastic please forgive me.
When I was at school I vaguely remember one of my teachers saying that her boyfriend or brother or whoever collected every CD that Bjork releases, from the singles to albums to limited edition stuff. I remember thinking at the time that that was rather a cool idea but I never found an artist that it was worth doing with.
Since the turn of the year I have been listening to the works of Shiina Ringo almost constantly. At first I was impressed simply with the way she sings, it’s very unique, but soon I discovered there was more to her. Much much more. It all started when I downloaded her complete discography and I began to listen from her first release, a single containing the song Koufukuron.
Never have I been so disappointed, this song was the very definition of sugary J-Pop that is so derided abroad. With lines like “You laugh and you cry and show me the real you, and so I love you just the way you are.” delivered in the most middle of the road way. Ugh. This single stinks of a singer being ground through the music industry machine to be discarded as soon as the next person comes along. I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that the single bombed and barely charted.
Undeterred though I was willing to give her another chance and gave her first album, Muzai Moratorium, a listen. It was all going swimmingly with a couple of nice little songs until track 4 came on.
I was blown away, it was Koufukuron again but this time, this time, it had changed. Suddenly it sounds like a punk song and Ringo sings it through gritted teeth (with added distortion) as though she despises it. The melody has been sped up with guitars and drums working overtime but Ringo is racing ahead of them screaming at them to keep up. She literally coughs, groans, splutters and spits all over it and this so called “Pleasure version” of the song is suddenly her bitch and she is injecting the venom hard and fast.
That’s when I realised that Shiina Ringo can do anything.
And she frequently does. The amount of different styles that she effortlessly plays with is a joy to behold. She frequently creates different versions of her own songs, each one unique and interesting. She has also produced some brilliant covers and I recommend everyone checks out her version of The Beatles’ Yer Blues. Go on, click here to listen to it, I know that you’re intrigued.
I also discovered later, with the aid of translations, that those first few “nice little songs” at the beginning of Muzai Moratorium were actually about prostitutes and her “getting off” on her amplifier.
Yes, she really is a bit of a tease. I recently bought one of her DVDs, her farewell concert of sorts where she announced that she had stopped working solo and introduced her new band to the world. At the very last part of the DVD, after a strange cartoon intermission with random body parts flying everywhere, the band appear for their first performance under their new name, Tokyo Incidents. There’s Miss Shiina in a lovely petite straw hat, her mole has mysteriously vanished and the crowd goes wild when they begin their first song. Just before the chorus though, boom, black screen, DVD finished. It seems like Ringo is saying that you’re gonna have to be patient and wait to find out what the band sounds like, the little minx.
There is plenty more I could say about Shiina Ringo but I think I will stop for now. I’ve gotten far too excited and need to make my point.
I have now decided that while I am in Japan, I will try and collect as many of her (and her band’s) albums and singles as possible. The amount and joyous quality of stuff she has brought out over the last 10 years really is astounding and I look forward to collecting it all. The great thing is that she is still only 29 so there is plenty of potential for a lot more to come.