Saturday, May 30, 2009

GREAT SONGS: Hoover's Ooover's "Rival Wa Rickenbacker"

A domestic quarrel involving a kitchen knife might not seem very promising material for a great love song.

But that's what “Rival Wa Rickenbacker” is, and it's one of those Hoover's Ooover tunes that astonishes with its newness and lack of cliche.

The song opens with a girl's spat with her boyfriend.

I broke a plate
Cut guitar strings
Threw a frying pan
And brought out a kitchen knife

So far, everything's fine. But then,

I still wasn't satisfied, so
I threw the Ricken
And finally you became mad
Saying “that's it”
You left the room

And so you find out that boyfriend is a guitarist, whose proudest possession is a Rickenbacker (abbreviated 'Ricken'). And the girl knows that, which is why she leaves it until the finale of the fight. But when she tosses the guitar, the boyfriend, who earlier appeared to tolerate dodging kitchen utensils and risking a stabbing incident, finally loses it. The opening lines have no subject ('I' and 'you'), which can be left out in Japanese, making them even more terse and masculine-sounding.

Even though the words are about violence, you get the sense that while the girl is angry (the song nevers says about what) she isn't seriously trying to harm the guy, and is instead making a point, at some bodily risk to him to be sure. Indeed, the phrase saying the girl “brought out” the knife—'mochidashitemita'—sounds quite tentative.

So the guy storms out after his Rickenbacker is made into a flying projectile, and then the chord changes, as well as the scene:

In the sky, shooting up and popping are fireworks
The summer night, seen from the veranda
Would I have been watching it now with you?

The girl is left alone in her room, with fireworks, the symbol of summer, visible from her window.

A couple of lines down, time has passed. She's gotten a haircut, trimmed her nails, changed her look in general, and along the way she's totaled a new car. And then, suddenly, she remembers her room used to be his too.

Chord change again, and she wonders whether he ever got that letter she dropped into the mail box, tripping twice on the way there. The night is ending, the morning is freezing, and she can feel herself becoming used to the loneliness.

So, the Rickenbacker is the 'rival' that took her boyfriend away from her, though she doesn't really mean that.

This isn't a perfect song—the first 20 seconds or so of the intro with drums could probably be lopped off, for example, because it doesn't do much—but it IS a vivid and living tune. Only 2 minute and 57 seconds long, the song contains a life that seems real, including the change of seasons—from the hot summer when the fight takes place to the lonely cold of the winter, when she's remembering him. As with most Hoover's Ooover songs, the music is catchy, and the singing heart-felt, but it's those out of a dozen of so Hoover songs I listen to has words that electrify, and this is one of them.


I just happened to realize the excellence of this song as I was listening to my iPod on the way to a Hoover's Ooover show at the Shimokitazawa Basement Bar. I repeated it. And again. And again. Pretty soon I was wandering the residential streets around the Basement Bar just so I could listen to the tune a few extra times before I entered the club. (And, happily, this song was on their set list that night.)


“Rival Wa Rickenbacker” is on Hoover Ooover's Tansansui mini-album. I've never seen a video of this song on YouTube, but there used to be one for “Tansansui” (which means 'carbonated water'), though it looks like it's been taken down. Here's a more recent video of the song “Timer”.

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