Album Flashback #1: Shiina Ringo - Muzai Moratorium

On the 27th May 2013 the anniversary single to celebrate 15 years since Shiina Ringo released her debut single is out. In the run up we'll be looking at each of her studio albums. We'll start at the beginning, with her debut album Muzai Moratorium...

Debut albums can never be taken as a bench mark of an artist’s career - and so it is that Shiina Ringo's debut sounds somewhat tame in comparison to her later releases. But note the words 'in comparison' - this is still no ordinary, manufactured J-Pop singer we're talking about. There are flashes of brilliance on the album in among the vast array of influences. But if you heard her later work before this album you'd be forgiven for being a little underwhelmed.

There's a more standard song structure in play and much more in the line of traditional instrumentation to be found. The songs too are completely different in style to later material and although the playful sounds and lyrics are still there they're not yet fully developed on record. The clever debut single, represented here by a rockier version, of Koufukuron (trans. A View of Happiness) is still a fun listen and other highlights include Kabukichou no Jyou (trans. Queen of Kabukichou), the fixation with the darker aspects of Tokyo life firmly in place by the second track. (Kabukichou, for those not in the know, is famous for its prostitutes and sex clubs - and is oft said to be somewhere a tourist is not advised to take pictures for fear of having your camera smashed by a member of the Yakuza.) 

Elsewhere there are highlights aplenty despite the disjointed nature of the album. Tsumiki Asobi (trans. Playing with Bricks) is much more akin to later songs, with a unique production fusing koto and beats with a maniacal ease.  There are also though some songs that still don’t gel with this reviewer, Koko de Kiss Shite (trans. Kiss Me Here) still sounds too normal and Onaji Yoru (trans. The Same Night) lacks something to make the chanson inspired vocals jump out at you. 

More so than any Shiina Ringo album it works better listened too track by track than as a whole but that doesn't mean to say it's not a rewarding listen - it's merely the weakest album of an excellent catalog.

Highlights: Kabukichou no Jyou; Tsumiki Asobi

Cover Art: Can you spot Shiina Ringo? A clever reverse CD jacket makes for a curiosity inducing listen. 

Meaning: (無罪)Muzai = Innocence and Moratorium = the end of something. That makes the album title the very succinct 'The End of Innocence' 

Reviewed by Sebastian Gahan.

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