Good Charamel Records
Typically light-hearted and goofy-seeming bands are fun for a while and then written off as novelties, especially in the more-authentic-than-thou underground. So why has Shonen Knife existed for nearly 30 years? They sound like something created in a corporate boardroom: an all-female Japanese group who play catchy pop punk and sing childish lyrics.
While Shonen Knife’s story may seem contrived, their career trajectory thus far follows that of many interesting bands: Release a few albums in your hometown, hone your sound, join a major label roster in the early ’90s, expose yourself to a wider audience at Lollapalooza, and revert to putting albums out on indie labels at the turn of the century.
Apart from that, there is no analytical or intellectual rationale for Shonen Knife; their longevity lies in the music. The Osaka-formed band continue their blend of ’60s melodies and ’70s punk on the U.S. release of the un-ironically titled Super Group. The now-trio keeps everything tight on its 14th album. There’s not a drum beat, bassline, or guitar strum out of place.
Frontwoman, and sole original member, Naoko Yamano sings ditties about the weather, bubbles, and various animals in broken English. The album starts with the Buzzcocks-influenced title track. Naoko sings, “The super group is perfect/ They make fantastic sounds/ Waiting for the tour/ They are going to come and play in my town!” “Deer Biscuits” features a rare country riff with the lyrics “sweet little deer came near me/ it blinked many times at me/ I fed deer biscuits to it/ it looked very happy.”
Shonen Knife ends Super Group on a slightly different note than the bulk of the album. The last song features a sweet, driving cover of the Wings hit “Jets,” complete with the wah-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew harmonies. The bonus track “Evil Birds” (only available on the album’s U.S. release) sounds like Connie Francis fronting the Hollies. That is, of course, if Miss Francis sang about obnoxious birds sitting on her balcony.
Shonen Knife: www.shonenknife.net