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24 May 2013

Album Flashback #2: Shiina Ringo - Shouso Strip


“That tricky second album” is a quote rarely heard. But when you consider just how different Shousou Strip is from its predecessor Muzai Moratorium you could very coin such a phrase.


It begins with a bass fueled bang – literally – and an invisible orchestral flourish and it’s a start that’s hard to better. Quite how ear catching it is, is hard to explain unless you hear it. But rest assured for those new to this album that it’s a good beginning. The sound for Shouso Strip is somewhat more even, with a turn the mix right up and throw it at them attitude prevalent on every track including the things this reviewer dreads the most – ballads. Yes, the classic album mood killer and they don’t even mean to half the time. But in the early albums the ballads are actually very listenable; resembling screaming guitar infused emotional paintings than anything else.

A definite highlight is Yami ni Furu Ame (trans. A Driving Rain in Darkness) with the out of tune violin and strings competing with the rock elements in manner that conspires to visualise rain and utter darkness, with the promotional video being well worth a look. Another highlight, one of the artists most famous and self-covered songs, is Youkushitsu (trans. Bathroom), and in it’ original form it’s a spellbinding dark fairy tale, where the singer urges the listener to drown her in a very dark form of love wondering out loud “how we ever came to meet” .

It also contains the striking Tsumi to Batsu (trans. Crime and Punishment) notable for its soul inspired yet out and out rock inspired arrangement. It also contains one of the artist’s best vocal performances in this particular style, matched closely with the aforementioned Honnou (trans. Instinct) that comes with one of her most dramatic videos. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

As a whole, it has to be said, the album is a production tour de force in keeping it loud, in your face and above all interesting. As much as I love this album, it’s not one for every occasion, the deafening volume sometimes eliminating from quieter moments by it’s sheer sonic disposition. (But saying this even the follow up Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana is a long-game listen despite its quieter production.) But if you like music that is experimental, daring and above all not afraid to lash out at you uncontrollably than Shouso Strip is an album you must listen to.

The Title: Shouso Strip – Roughly translated it means ‘Lawsuit Winning Strip’

Highlights: Yami ni Furu ame, Youkushitsu.

Written by Seba Gahan.