Ramones, Buzzcocks, AC/DC–There is a handful of bands that start off with a basic, primal sound and don’t ever need to evolve or grow it because they’ve immediately achieved perfection. And while even the hardest core fans might get burned out after the seventh or eighth record, we eventually get sucked back in. We remember not only why we loved that particular band but music in general. And hopefully they’re still around so you can buy more records and see them play.
Shonen Knife is celebrating its 35th year with an album called Adventure. The first song, “Jump Into The New World,” is a totally riff-rocking ode to not being afraid, not being jaded, and just plain going for it. How hard is it for a working-class band to have that attitude after at least 15 records and 6 compilations? How hard is it have that attitude after doing anything for 35 years?
It probably doesn’t hurt that Atsuko is back to lend her bass to her sister and principal singer Naoko’s axe. They equally crank it up and mix it up on “Rock’n’roll T-shirt,” which celebrates the international and timeless appeal of black baseball sleeves, logos, and tour dates, and “lml,” which brings the spirit of making the goat sign in the front row into the age where audiences hold up their cell phones instead. You’ll detect a tribute to Lemmy in the latter song, which is as raw as it is riffy as it is fun.
The slow songs are cool, too. “Hawaii,” “Tasmanian Devil,” and “Cotton Candy Clouds” take some of the band’s favorite themes (travels, animals, and sweets) but are more fuzzy and almost psychedelic. Maybe all that candy has gone to the sisters’ brains.
The International Pop Underground originators from Japan are still playing shimmering but humble songs about food and fun, and have all the same unironic qualities that earned the respect and support of bands like Nirvana, Beat Happening, White Flag, and Redd Kross in the early ’90s. It says volumes that Shonen Knife has not only taken part in star-studded tributes to the Carpenters and the Runaways–and recorded an entire album of Ramones covers–but were the subject of an indie punk tribute themselves!
The 12 songs clock in at less than 35 minutes but the band’s DIY take on girl groups, punk rock, and metal is timeless. When she was two, my daughter and her crew dressed up as Shonen Knife for Halloween (and then they got to meet the band at an Amoeba in-store a few months later in 2010) and their world is better off because the band is still kicking ass today. So is mine.