Shonen Knife ‘Pop Tune’ – album review

Shonen Knife ‘Pop-Tune’ (Damnably)
CD/DL/Ltd LP
Released 2nd July 2012

Shonen Knife were formed back in 1981 by Naoko Yamano, who along with her sister Atsuko and friend Michie Nakatani, worked together in a rather bland Osaka office ”“ however these ladies had a mutual interest; The Ramones ”“ and to further enjoy ”˜Da bruvvers’ they formed a band in a sort of pastiche and certainly wacky homage. Now some 30 years later Japan’s finest sonic exports return with their 18th album, which as ever is fair brimming with energetic perfect indie pop. Ten original tracks which were jointly produced by Naoko, and band manger Atsushi.

The bands last two albums ”˜Super Group’ and ”˜Free Time’ saw them explore a more heavy rock sound, here the clue is in the title; ”˜Pop Tune’ sees Shonen Knife return to their more familiar 60’s inspired rapid fire punk – all bar one of the tracks comes in at under four minutes, as such there isn’t any time to mess around with fripperies; album opener ”˜Welcome To The Rock Club’ gets straight to the point and reminds us why the band are often referred to as the ”˜Osaka Ramones’ .
The title track ”˜Pop Tune’ is an upbeat, perfect pop number with carefree lyrics from Naoko “since you’re already here, think of happy things”. ”˜Osaka Rock City’ which is the theme song for the film Soul Flower Train (due for release later this year) has her repeatedly telling us ”˜I need more excitement” over the bounce along beat and riffing guitar.

One of the characteristics of Shonen Knife material is their declared love of cutesy animals and food, the theme continues on ”˜All You Can Eat’ ”“ a ridiculous Blur mid Brit-pop era sounding paean reminding us to eat our five-a ”“day “when you go to an all you can eat, don’t forget to take some vegetables’ all delivered with Naoko’s heavily accented English, add to this a kazoo for no good reason other than Shonen Knife felt it was appropriate. Drummer Emi takes vocal duties during ”˜Psychedelic Life’ which does exactly what is says on the tin, a slowed beat, lyrics “burning incense, having some peppermint tea” and a wistful flute all telling us that the subject of the song is “acting like a bohemian”, and with bass player Ritsuko taking vocal duties during the ”˜Sunshine’ the total band approach is complete ”“ its only the accented vocals that suggest that this pure pop summer breeze number is by Shonen Knife.

“Pop Tune” is a great album from a very distinct act, there are as evidenced during ”˜Sunshine’ a few more mellow moments than those familiar with Shonen Knife might expect ”“ don’t let that put you off; this is a gloriously enchanting irresistible slice of pure indie pop that literally bounces along; guaranteed to bring a smile to the most dour of listeners. Shonen Knife rejoice in the simplicity of their material ”“ it’s the reason for their longevity, and their own exuberance is transferred into the songs. As the world continues to go into economic meltdown we need the distraction of Shonen Knife more than ever – just allow yourself the simple pleasure of singing along.

Tracklisting:

Welcome To the Rock Club
Pop Tune
Osaka Rock City
All You Can Eat
Paper Clip
Psychedelic Life
Mr. J
Ghost Train
Sunshine
Move On

Shonen Knife return to the UK in October ;

01 Oct ”“ Cargo, London (Osaka Ramones)
02 Oct ”“ Ruby Lounge, Manchester
+ Marc Riley BBC 6Music Live session
03 Oct ”“ Glee Club, Nottingham
04 Oct ”“ Cluny, Newcastle
05 Oct ”“ Oran Mor, Glasgow
07 Oct ”“ The Musician, Leicester
08 Oct ”“ Glee Club, Birmingham
09 Oct ”“ Bogiez, Cardiff
10 Oct ”“ The Fleece, Bristol
11 Oct ”“ Roisin Dubh, Galway IR
12 Oct ”“ Crane Lane Theatre, Cork IR
13 Oct ”“ Whelan’s, Dublin IR
14 Oct ”“ Black Box, Belfast NI
15 Oct ”“ Waterfront, Norwich

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