Review : Shonen Knife - Pop Tune
BbcFresh from their 2011 Ramones tribute – surely the covers album they were always destined to make – Shonen Knife return with all-new material for their 18th release. Pop Tune finds the Japanese three-piece in fine form, exhibiting a wide-eyed freshness all the more remarkable when you consider that they have been a going concern since 1981.
As the title implies, most of the tunes here tilt towards the pop end of the pop-punk spectrum, with Ghost Train, the title track and Welcome to the Rock Club highlighting the band’s appealing way with a no-messing chorus and refrain. The soft, harmonious “oohs” that ornament Pop Tune, Paper Clip, Mr J and Move On supplement the album’s prevailing sweetness of sound.
The usual what-you-see-is-what-you-get lyrical subject matter can be found, pushed perhaps to the edge of mundanity in All You Can Eat, seemingly not much more than a set of instructions for how to get the best out of a restaurant buffet: “Decide which one you want / Then help yourself to the food (…) Don’t forget to take some fruit,” and so on. More enjoyable are the words of positivity found in the album’s opening track, a straightforward greeting to the listener: “Enjoy the music / Listen to the song,” they endearingly suggest; or Pop Tune’s exhortation to “think your happy thing”....full text
MusicomhFor an incredible 31 years Shonen Knife have been pumping out prototype riot grrrl, thrashing together early punk sounds with pop melodies. Along the way they've amassed a legion of influential fans, from Kurt Cobain to Thurston Moore. But despite the glowing endorsement and doggish persistence, they've never shaken off the 'cult' label - and on the face of it, with their 18th studio album, the Japanese three-piece aren't nurturing ambitions to change this.
So why've they evaded the mainstream for so long? Maybe it's their lyrics; there's no getting away from the fact that a lot of them are just silly. Pop Tune is sung in English, so perhaps some are a little lost in translation. More likely, they're just a bit bonkers. Take All You Can Eat, which sees Naoko Yamano (at 51 the only original member of the group, but frighteningly teenage-looking) chirruping about the merits of all you can eat buffets, offering pearls of wisdom such as "Don't forget to take some vegetables" and "Chocolate fountain is the best". Or Psychedelic Life, which sees Yamano reimaging herself as a hippy: "Burning incense, have some peppermint tea... Flower power". Thankfully Pop Tune doesn't come with a lyric book.
This is a good thing because, strip away the kitsch, written-by-five-year-olds lyrics, and Shonen Knife have been one of the most consistently brilliant pop acts of their generation(s). Last year they recorded a Ramones covers album, and you don't have to listen to Pop Tune for too long to stumble across the band's influence. So too for UK punk bands like The Buzzcocks and Jilted John, but they've spawned their own sound-alikes, and bands likes The Donnas, Helen Love, Horrorpops and even Lush owe them a thing or two.
For the uninitiated, the album's namesake is as good an introduction to them as any, as over a fuzz of high energy, exploding lo-fi guitars Yamano grins: "When I feel the music, I get power...since you're here think happy things". The two sounds - the music and her voice - are so at odds with each other that it shouldn't work. But it does, and the enthusiasm and energy is as bright as it was back in 1981....full text
IndependentThere are two types of people: those who enjoy thrashy Japanese girl-punk, and those who have something wrong with them.
With one track called "Psychedelic Life" and another which nudges five minutes, Shonen Knife's 17th album briefly raises fears that they've gone hippy on us. Thankfully, the Knife have remained true to their essential principles: namely, buzzsaw guitars, sugary harmonies and lyrics about all-you-can-eat buffets and paperclips....full text
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