I first heard of Shonen Knife back when they covered “Top of the World” for the If I was a Carpenter… tribute album (made re-famous by the inclusion of Sonic Youth’s cover of Superstar in the movie Juno) back in the early ’90s. I didn’t get into them, unfortunately, and unlike my skate-murderer buddy Keith, didn’t go see them when they first toured the States. As luck would have it, they returned to the same venue, Maxwell’s in Hoboken, last Saturday, and I made sure to go see them.
J-pop has gotten immensely more popular in the States since then, and Shonen Knife is more of a J-Rock group actually. They’ve performed in Japan as “The Osaka Ramones” tribute band, to give you an idea of their music. Energetic, lots of fun, with the same silly love of life that most Ramones songs have. Do you like fruits and vegetables? Why not sing about it? Do you have a very bad sense of direction? Maybe you need a Mapmaster. And you should write a song about it. That’s what Shonen Knife is like, with ’60s style guitars and lots of long black hair flying around like Cousin It’s become a headbanger.
Opening bands were Girls at Dawn, who I missed some of- but they had a good set. They did a lovely, poppy cover of Misfits “Last Caress” that really stood out, but I’d hear them play again. Unfortunately they were sort of blown off the stage by Nashville duo Jeff the Brotherhood, who manage to rock your face off with a 3 stringed guitar and a set of drums. They reminded me a lot of early Sabbath and the Melvins, and I liked them so much I bought their album Heavy Days on vinyl. Bonus, it’s grey vinyl and comes with a free digital download of the album. They were a great opening band with lots of energy, and if only the ceiling were higher I’m sure they would have jumped off the amp:
Then Shonen Knife came on, opening with “Konnichiwa,” their standard opening song. Naoko, the guitarist, is the only original gal left, but the new bassist Ritsuko and drummer Etsuko do an amazing job. They have lots of energy too, and you know that they just love rock ‘n roll. And it’s infectious. They played songs old and new, from their lighter poppy early tunes to many tracks off “Heavy Songs” and their new album “Supergroup,” which feel more power punk. As always, they sing in English on American tour, but have Japanese and English versions of their albums. Naoko speaks English well and introduced a lot of the songs, such as “BBQ Party,” saying she wrote it because it’s one of her favorite American foods. My favorite new one was the aforementioned “Mapmaster,” which reminded me of a cross between Ramones and early Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. They put on a great show, and the 75 minute set felt like it flew by. I liked them so much I considered seeing their Brooklyn show last night, but alas, I had to go get beat up at MMA class.
Since I got the tickets, Pete got me a Shonen Knife workout towel- you can see them around their necks in the photo of him with the band:
Here’s the band singing “Banana Chips”
I also have a clip of them covering “Daydream Believer,” I’ll edit this post when it’s finished uploading.