I kept wondering what was up with Sean Lennon during last Monday’s 50th Anniversary celebration of The Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Was he going to play, join Dhani Harrison up on stage? But no, he just remained next to mother Yoko’s side, looking mostly awkward until the “Hey Jude” finale, when he joined in with the mass mouthing. Things got more complicated when I heard that Cibo Matto was releasing a new album appropriately for tomorrow entitled Hotel Valentine.
Cibo Matto (Italian for “Crazy Food,” an ongoing theme in their compositions) are Japanese-expatriate Internationalists Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori, long-time members of Manhattan’s hip downtown music scene before they started collaborating 20 years ago.
Through their shared connections, recordings (1994’s Viva! La Woman) and offshoots started happening quite rapidly, notably among them a collaboration with video director Mike Mills and members of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion known as Butter 08 that got an album out on Grand Royal via Mike D’s intervention. Through Butter 08, they befriended Lennon, who officially joined Cibo Matto in 1997 along with Timo Ellis and Duma Love.
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Honda and Lennon also entered an approximately 5-year relationship and maintain and ongoing musical collaboration. During their relationship period, Honda produced Lennon’s Into The Sun (1998), and Lennon and the others contributed to Cibo Matto’s second album, Stereo * Type A. In 2002, the band officially disbanded, although they un-officially continued to record occasionally.
They re-united for benefit shows in the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, also performing as members of a re-formed Plastic Ono Band. This led to an actual Cibo Matto tour with Yuko Araki on drums, and a performance at last summers Yoko Ono-curated Meltdown Festival at London’s Southbank that featured an appearance by Sean Lennon, as well as French-American comedian-musician Reggie Watts, who is featured on their lead-out single for Hotel Valentine, “MFN” (a retro- electro-rap with a video produced by NYC Chinatown production group Georgia. It recalls Neneh Cherry’s big moment with 1988’s “Buffalo Stance”).
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It raises the question as to whether Sean Lennon will appear on the album, and if so why they didn’t collaborate on a song for the 50th Anniversary? (“Mean Mr. Mustard” was calling out to them). Perhaps the fact that Honda’s present husband, Nels Cline, is a major contributor to the album is a factor.
Otherwise, the album is an interesting construction because although it is a collection of recordings that the duo has made over the course of the last decade, the songs are grouped into a loose theme related to a tour of the title Hotel. The fact that L.A.’s downtown Ace Hotel has just opened in the old United Artists building could be viewed as pure coincidence, but don’t tell me that this won’t be all over the sound systems there and at the nearby Standard all year.
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