The Second Coming of Ringo

Written by Erin Grace

When I heard the news, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

“Wake up, everyone! Ring the bells! Clap your hands! Sing! Dance! Shiina Ringo is back!”

That response always makes me feel foolish. Technically speaking, Ringo never left us. Oh, there was the threat as far as back as 2000 when she said that she would leave after producing her third album, and the threat became palpable in 2003 when she had her beauty mark removed and “retired.” But she couldn’t stay away from us any more than we can stay away from her. She started up the band Tokyo Jihen in 2004, barely a year after she quit solo work, and continued playing brilliant music with them. All the while, there were signs that she’d come back – a collaboration with Saito Neko in 2007, a best-of collection release in 2008. Like the fascinating backward rush of the sea as a tsunami rushes in, she seemed to be leaving only to come back bigger and stronger.

I’m sure you can see why I feel so foolish for being excited. It’s not like she’s really been gone.

But I can’t push the excitement down, either.

Ringo is so brilliant, no matter what she’s doing: Queen Ringo of Kabukichou, performing in “sin city” itself, at the East Entrance of Shinjuku Station; Nurse Ringo rubbing and licking all over a female patient in the “Honnou” video; the strange and lovely “Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana,” with its vacuum cleaner solos and Heian-period lyrics. Ringo is always surprising, never boring.

I want so badly for the tsunami to be here now, to take me by storm now, but it’s not happening yet. I can see the crest of the tsunami approaching, but it hasn’t reached the shore.

“Ariamaru Tomi,” Ringo’s first solo single since “Ringo no Uta” in 2003, will be released on May 27th, and it’s already all over YouTube. (I’ve even translated the lyrics and posted them in the forums, for those of you who are interested.) It’s a beautiful PV, and a beautiful song; somewhat unusually worded, like “Gibs.” But it’s not the crushing flood of musical innovation that I wanted or expected. Where are the quirky uses of ancient phraseology? Where are the archaic instruments? For that matter, where the improvised instruments – the vacuum cleaners and trains and news reports?

Although it in itself isn’t the storm I’m waiting for, I think “Ariamaru Tomi” is the last sign of that storm, which we can already see on the horizon. “Sanmon Gossip,” Ringo’s new album, is due at the end of June, and it should prove to be a work of terrific genius like we haven’t seen in Japanese music in ages. So until “Sanmon Gossip” is finally released, you’ll know where to find me: I’ll be shouting from the mountaintops:

Wake up!

Sing!

Ring out the bells!

Clap your hands! Dance and be merry!

Shiina Ringo is BACK!