Shonen Knife certainly aren’t ones to take anything too seriously and appear to enjoy keeping things fun and simple.
As I arrive at the Fleece I am surrounded by a large hoard of overweight, balding men and a subtle but apparent stale stench of sweat and lager; doesn’t sound like the most welcoming of smells, I know, but my concerns are soon put to rest by the sudden swift appearance of a cute-as-pie trio of starlets equipped with grins similar to those of cheshire cats; it’s got to be none other than the sought after all-Japanese super-group Shonen Knife. They seem like they’re doing something right already; I get the inkling they have found a whole new lease of life and I’m keen to know their secret. They continue to spring around ecstatically on stage, showcasing their merchandise; and then settle to take their positions; eyes wide and full of gleeful anticipation.
“Bristol! Rock city! We are so glad to be back, you are so lush” chirps lead singer and only original member; Naiko Yamano. Having originally formed in 1981, Naiko must have at least twenty years on the other girls but they all seem to fit together well, at least aesthetically. I imagine there are probably a few disagreements offstage; or when Naiko is after an early night; or maybe it’s the other way round? Though my guess is that they are all in the same mind when it comes to making things work business-wise; and so far we are all fooled.
The tour is in support of new release ‘Overdrive’, though from what I’ve read the album (now their nineteenth studio effort) hasn’t received the greatest of reviews. But with topics relating mostly to cats and food, which seem to be on-going subjects throughout the years, I say bugger off to all the critics. Shonen Knife certainly aren’t ones to take anything too seriously and appear to enjoy keeping things fun and simple; and have done for over thirty years (a gold star deserved for that alone) so I ask; what the heck is the problem with that?
With their Ramones-style, fuzz power-chords, childlike lyrics and a smile reserved for all who open their ears and hearts to these happy-go-lucky sweethearts; this is more than enough to keep all very contented indeed. With virtually no break between each song the starlets are quick to transition into relentless, fast-paced, bubblegum pop-punk riffs, sometimes with a surf-rock feel akin to the Beach Boys, along with simple but effective old-school guitar solos and thunderous, satisfying beats.
Newer material – ‘I Wanna Eat Choco Bars’, ‘Like a Cat’ and ‘Green Tea’ are just some of the highlights. ‘Ramen Rock’, where singer Naoko has a wee rant about guitarist Ritsuko’s favourite food (the Ramen Noodle). Yes you read correctly, a whole song dedicated to that of a noodle; legendary in itself and sung with such passion, it’s an insanely catchy punk/pop tune that leaves one feeling the fix of a good natural high. I am pleased they have included some of the old classics in the set as well; right back to the early 90’s, taken from vaguely successful release ‘Let’s Knife’ — such as ‘Twist Barbie’, ‘Antonio Baka Guy’ and ‘Riding on a Rocket’.
Shonen Knife, having received a reasonable amount of success throughout Europe and swooned over by the likes of Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth, have taken their inspiration from the big brothers and sisters of early rock and punk; especially 1960’s girl pop groups and put it all into practice, creating a recipe of pure nostalgic, popping candy joy. Harking back to the feel and chaos The Beatles created with all those shrieking girls; replace the girls with shrieking men, old enough to be your father, and we have a winner.
Check out ‘Bad Luck Song’ right here: