What if Alanis Morissette sang in Japanese and numbered Stevie Wonder as one of her songwriting influences? Don’t imagine — Shiina Ringo pretty much does that already.
Oh c’mon — Alanis and Stevie? On paper, it looks the musical equivalent of the bride of Frankenstein, but Shiina pulls off the combination without a hitch.
Shiina takes the big, rawking guitars of Jagged Little Pill and filters it through Wonder’s sense of funk. “Marunouchi Sadistic,” the third track on Ringö’s debut Muzai Moratorium, exemplifies the formula. She even preserves Wonder’s harmonica without making it sound as sacchrine as it usually does.
At various points, Shiina departs from this basic rock-funk formula to present more sonically oblique fare. On “Koufukuron(etsurakuhen),” she’s positively punk, and on “Shido to Hakuchuumu,” she even channels Björk.
While it’s not unusual for Japanese vocalists to sing through their nose, Shiina’s technique makes her sound just like Everyone’s Favorite Canadian with a tad more helium. Nowhere is the comparrison more aparent than on “Kokode Kiss Shite.”
What results is a strangely enjoyable album of funky Japanese rock music that doesn’t take its funkiness too gravely.