Shonen Knife is one of alternative rock’s most enduring names, as their youthful and uplifting melting pot of styles defies time and classification. One could call them riot grrl, but that would overlook the light-hearted charm of their compositions and subject matter (candy, toys, and enjoyment). One could call them J-pop, but that negate their raucous punk sound and the moxy they displayed in becoming one of the first internationally acclaimed all girl rock groups. Their notoriety is boosted by some memorable name-drops by Kurt Cobain, Thurston Moore and Wesley Willis among others. This summer they’ve released the new album Super Group, packed full of boisterous jams featuring a new regular member, former touring bassist Ritsuko Taneda.
The band formed in 1981 by sisters Naoko and Atsuko Yamano and Michie Nakatani. Coming from Osaka, Japan, a key site for Western imports, they were heavily influenced by the rock and roll streaming in from the United States and UK. Thus, their sound was a stripped-down take on punk and new wave with an unmistakably do-it-yourself presentation. Unlike their Western counterparts however, their 28 years of rock has not veered from upbeat, frivolous lyrics about animals, food, and friends. Though, at times, their J-pop cutesiness is peppered with the occasional strangeness or controversy. The cut “Dali’s Sunflower” was banned in Japan due to what authorities deemed as too explicit a reference to “going crazy.” “Twist Barbie,” the groups 1983 cut and perhaps their most popular, laments the Western feminine ideal as impossible to attain for Asian girls. Their import-only studio albums were favorites of the US underground rock scene, and in 1986 Sub Pop began releasing and reissuing material in America. In 1989, the tribute album Every Band Has A Shonen Knife That Loves Them was released featuring covers by Sonic Youth, The Mr. T Experience, Redd Kross and more. The band would go on to enjoy the fruits of American stardom, appearing on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Beavis and Butthead, on CNN and onstage at Lollapalooza.
When Michie left the band in 1999, Atsuko put down the drumsticks took over duties on bass, making room for Etsuko Nakanishi to join the band as a permanent member behind the kits in 2005. In 2008, Atsuko left the band due to her marriage and was replaced by longtime Shonen fan Ritsuko. Super Group came out in May with critics haling the return to form. As Nipponrock.net proclaims “…the music is still as relevant as ever. Silly lyrics, stripped down rock melodies and a potent sense of fun make Super Group a great album.” The Culturedeluxe blog heralded the record as having “something for the metalhead, the pre-schooler AND the acid casualty out there.” On October 16th, they will be playing Santos Party House, also an outfit dedicated to fun, for what promises to be a memorable night for the eternally young among us.
MIHO HATORI’S NEW OPTIMISM
Known foremost as the vocalist for Cibo Matto, Miho Hatori has long been establishing herself as a solo composer and envelope-pusher. Her 2006 solo album Ecdysis threw together driving beats that mixed ambient electronic tones with some harsher noise and an airy vocal. Aside from her solo and Cibo endeavors she has lent vocal talent to Gorillaz, Handsome Boy Modelling School, John Zorn, Blackalicious and The 6ths.
Catch them before they get too cool for you. Shellshag are an unfairly infectious punk band from Brooklyn with a strong with a cross-coastal appeal. Perhaps a bit gritty but the world will compensate. Don Giovanni Records has just announced that they will be putting out the group’s debut LP which promises to bring their drumset-destroying antics into the comfort of your own home.