Cibo Matto is often saddled with the descriptive "cute and quirky," a knee-jerk label brought on by the fronting duo's gender, accents and slight stature, along with a sorry ignorance of what goes on at their shows. The Beastie Boys are short and have funny East Coast accents, but they're heralded as innovative, despite their latest album's reliance on an early-'80s hip-hop foundation of 808 beats and ABAB couplets. Cibo Matto crammed their recent Stereo Type A (Warner Bros.) full of hip-hop beats, mod jazz guitars, eclectic samples, Afro-Brazilian rhythms and indie-rock swing, in effect out-nastying the Beasties' Hello Nasty. But they're tagged as cute and quirky when "daring" or "adventurous" is more appropriate.
In concert the slickness of their studio work is stripped back to reveal a raw-boned punk-rock basement party. Cibo Matto will shiver your timbers and compel even the most funk-impaired among the "too cool to dance" crowd to dust off their groove thangs and give them a good shaking.
Miho Hatori rocks the mic like a seasoned NYC emcee, punctuating her clever lyrics with a shriek somewhere between James Brown and Blixa Bargeld. Yuka Honda layers samples and keyboards soulfully, creating lush banks of sound and fury. Drummer Timo Ellis transforms in the blink of an eye from polyrhythmic whirlwind to rock-steady metronome hittin' it on the one. And then there's Sean Lennon. Forget his pedigree and zero in on the fact that he is one of the most versatile bassists around; he can crush you with thick slabs of funk, soothe you with rich waves of jazzy vibes, then absolutely pummel you with the fuzzed-out supernova solo that erupts from the yolk sac of "Know Your Chicken." Make no mistake, Cibo Matto come correct when they take the stage, and there's nothing cute about it.