Keikoku (Caution) by Ringo Sheena
Ringo Sheena is big in Japan. Since her debut single as a 19-year-old in 1998, every album she’s released has reached the top 3 in her native country. This includes her records with the band Tokyo Jihen, while she’s also written hits for boyband Tokio. This all suggests a confident performer who panders to the mainstream, but Wikipedia describes Ringo as “well known for her eccentricity” and her body of work is diverse and challenging.
Ringo Sheena was barely 20 when she released her debut album Muzai Moratorium, writing all of the tracks. It’s not her most acclaimed work. I’ve seen it described as having too much of a debt to Alanis Morisette, and her arty fourth album Kalk Samen Kuri no Hana is often deemed her best. But I love ‘Keikoku’, buried down as the second last track of Muzai Moratorium. Sheena wished to release it as her first single but was overruled by her record company.
Guitarist Susumu Nishikawa only worked with Shiina Ringo for her first couple of albums, but he’s monstrous here. The bluesy opening riff is huge, and there’s a great solo too. The rhythm section is funky, while Sheena’s lead vocal is youthful and athletic.
The language barrier has prevented Ringo Sheena from becoming popular outside of Japan, but she’s a fascinating artist.