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In Words: Cibo Matto + Richard In Your Mind + Ben Ely @ The Zoo, 29.10.2014

In Words: Cibo Matto + Richard In Your Mind + Ben Ely @ The Zoo, 29.10.2014
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Most musicians are mired in their muck.  And we love that.  But some people – I guess I call them artists – seem to float above it all, with the lightest touch.

Ben Ely is a musician and it comes naturally, like breathing.  This is his first show with a new drummer and he’s glad to be back onstage and in Brisbane: “Melbourne sucks!”.  No white boy blues for this guitar ‘n’ drum two-piece; they breeze through some delay dripping, slightly modal/Eastern numbers about doing what you want, getting high and a bit of healthy fuck-the-man.  Hippies (and musicians) you can trust.

Richard In Your Mind appear to take the modal/Eastern thing as a challenge and win it hands down, trumping Ely with the first electric sitar I’ve seen in The Zoo.  They’re five dudes – musicians – with instrument swaps, vocal harmonies, proper-looking analogue synths, the works.  As the sitar suggests, they’re not without whimsy or flair and the eponymous frontman has an enigmatic buzz.  There might be some tongue in cheek with this bunch but if so, it’s so deep it’s hard to tell (a good thing).  While a few years ago it was the Beck-style hip hop manoeuvres that stood out, a trad psych element now dominates their weirdo pop.  They chug along at a pace that’d be quite nice in the comfort of your lounge (which I intend to try with their new album Ponderosa) and, being seated, I lazily enjoy the ornate noodling.  But my companion, who is fond of parts with singing in them and generally getting on with things, grows tired.  Those musicians and their muck.

Fittingly, Cibo Matto emerge all in white.  Clear and conceptual, but also utilitarian, like house painters: ready to muck in but able to see past the end of their tools.  All of the music in the first few minutes besides Miho’s singing comes out of Yuka’s laptop.  Yuka Honda could musician you under the table any day but here, surrounded by racks of gear and flanked by a touring rhythm section, she presses play.  And ‘Sugar Water’ is the long, cool glass of song it always has been.  The producer proceeds to bury herself in wires and knobs as the (shit hot, it turns out) muso’s fire up their gear and grimaces, but a point’s been made.

We’re a small but happy bunch at The Zoo tonight.  For the most part Miho is the centre of attention.  She paces and sings, bounces and raps under shades and cap.  Her standard but unforced tourist talk of Byron Bay brings home that this is really their first tour here (I grin dizzily), making it all the more interesting that the new stuff gets the best reaction from the younger crowd up the front.  The highlight of the main set is when Yuka dons sunnies to join Miho out front for ‘MFN’ – mother fucking nature – the bounciest tune from this year’s Hotel Valentine, a concept album about a haunted hotel with the same surreally observational tone as Viva! La Woman brought to food.  A cover of bossa nova standard ‘Águas de Março’ is apt for its similar approach (Miho explains it is a list of things floating in rainwater) and for the shades of Brazil’s Tropicalia movement, which Cibo Matto recall in their ability to do experimentation as play, and play as profound.  That’s how the light touch can hit hard.  Of course, and I don’t know if I’ve heard anyone put this better than Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai so I’ll just quote him direct: “If you can’t rock, you’re pish”.  As the exuberantly noisy encore of ‘Birthday Cake’ demonstrates, Cibo Matto are not pish.

As we amble out I try to counter my companion’s charge of novelty.  Yes, ‘Birthday Cake’ is about cake, but, well, look!

Shut up and eat!
Too bad, no bon appetit!
Shut up and eat!
You know my love is sweet!

Yes, I’m cooking for my son and his wife
It’s his 30th birthday
Pour berries into my bowl
Add milk of two months ago
‘it’s moldy mom, isn’t it? ‘
I don’t give a flying fuck though

Shut up and eat!
Too bad, no bon appetit!
Shut up and eat!
You know my love is sweet!
Shut up and eat!
Too bad, no bon appetit!
Shut up and eat!
You know my love is sweet!

It’s food nouveau
It’s food nouveau
It’s the shape of love
Beat it! beat it up!
Beat it! beat it up!

Extra sugar, extra salt
Extra oil and msg
Extra sugar, extra salt
Extra oil and msg

Shut up and eat!
Too bad, no bon appetit!
Shut up and eat!
You know my love is sweet!
Shut up and eat!
Too bad, no bon appetit!
Shut up and eat!
You know my love is sweet!

You were born in the 60’s
We made a war with the vietnamese
We loved lsd, we died easily
Can we just say c’est la vie?
So what! say what! for your own sake
Do you have a headache or heartbreak?
Are you made or broken by the birthday cake?
You may be slow on the uptake
I pour pot in the birthday cake
So what! say what! for my own sake
Watch out yo! here I come yo!
I’m gonna change to a rattlesnake
Turn up the tv! do you agree?
Yeah, I’m talking turkey take it from me
I’m gonna show my love for my dove
‘but it’s moldy, mom, isn’t it? ‘

Extra sugar, extra salt
Extra oil and msg
Extra sugar, extra salt
Extra oil and msg

Shut up and eat!
Too bad, no bon appetit!
Shut up and eat!
You know my love is sweet!
Shut up and eat!
Too bad, no bon appetit!
Shut up and eat!
You know my love is very sweet!

“Novelty” really means newness, and newness is about the angle you come at things from.  But it’s late, I struggle to talk about some of the things I’ve said here, and I get mired.  I probably still am.  It’s lucky we have artists.

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