Whatever you do, don’t press the random button while listening to this album.
And if you just happen to have acquired Shouso Strip through file sharing, don’t just start playing tracks randomly.
Shiina Ringo’s second album is an epic work full of strange effects, sudden starts and stops, plus lots and lots of studio tricks. It’s also a highly structured album that only makes sense when heard from start to finish.
Taken individually, the tracks on Shouso Strip could be mistaken as a whole lot of fancy stuff on the surface with little depth. After all, if a song were really that good, it would stand on its own stripped-down, right?
Shouso Strip goes beyond just a collection of 13 good songs. Each track works well with others, and in some cases, they need each other.
By itself, “Stoicism” is a passable, quirky novelty, but taken in context of its preceeding songs, the head-banging “Identity” and the grunge-y blues of “Tsumi to Batsu”, it sets up momentum for the straight-forward rocker of “Tsuki Ni Makeinu.”
The dischordant intro of “Benkai Debussy” sounds alien without the prepared piano conclusion of “Yokushitsu.” And the sudden cut at the end of “Sakana” would make no sense without the distorted drums of “Byoshou Public” to cut it off.
It’s this interplay between the songs that makes Shouso Strip an addictive album. Play it again and again, and the aural roller coaster Shiina has created takes more twists and turns with each subsequent listen.
While her debut album, Muzai Moratorium, showcased the strength of Shiina’s songwriting, Shouso Strip demonstrates her ability to compose.
Very few women rockers, including ones in America, achieve the kind of confrontational artistry Shiina Ringo regularly produces. E!Online’s comparrisons to Courtney Love — whom Ringo mentions along with Kurt Cobain in the lyrics of the album’s centerpiece, “Gips” — are somewhat off-the-mark.
Shiina isn’t afraid to be challenging or weird, and Shouso Strip is both pleasantly.