They are basically the definition of “Kawaii Rock”, and I am not talking about Babymetal. They are way cooler (maybe hotter) than Babymetal in their time. Believe me. Shonen Knife’s charm has been validated by Jeff and Steven McDonald, Thurston Moore and remarkably their biggest fan, Kurt Cobain. Nearly every article mentioning their name would quote the passionate comment Cobain has made after first watching their LA gig, “When I finally got to see them live, I was transformed into a hysterical nine-year-old girl at a Beatles concert.” Twenty five years have passed and these big girls from Osaka still rocked the stage of Knitting Factory, Brooklyn with the release of album “Adventure” earlier in this April.
With two local bands in flashy costumes opening for the night and the crowd voting for the best Halloween look, the whole venue was brushed full holiday scene. Shonen Knife came onto the stage with glittering golden outfits and devil’s horns on their heads and hands. Naoko, the lead singer said, “We are wearing costumes today! In fact, we wear costumes every time we play. Every day is Halloween to us.” Of all the three members in current lineup, Naoko Yamano and Atsuko Yamano sisters are original members who formed the band, and the much younger Risa Kawano on the drums has just joined last year. They look surprisingly energetic for their age not only to the audience who first saw their performance. As a hard core fan who last saw them play in the 90s stated,” Their smiles did not change a bit”. He flew from San Francisco to see the show.
The show started with the new must-play Pop Tune, immediately aroused the woozy crowd right after the first note clashed the air, and set the stage for a joyful and lighthearted vibe. Then Twist Barbie, the first official English song recorded in their first album, and Bear Up Bison, another classic released later in the 90s, undoubtedly pushed the crowd into the vortex of craziness. With the new lineup, they slightly changed the arrangement of the songs and made them sound dreamier and more delicate. The way that they headbanged, instead of the traditional fierce kind you can see in heavy metal shows, was more like a cute move when little girls learn how to rock for the first time, and they did that on purpose to be in line with the lyrics picturing an attractive blue-eyed blondie.
After the warmup, the band introduced their new 70s influenced release “Adventure” and played four new songs from the album. In Naoko’s words, they will be doing a few songs about food (giggles). The surprise was that Risa, the new drummer, was more involved in singing. The audience’s love for her was so obvious that the scream and shout when she was singing was even louder than during Twist Barbie. Risa killed every male, and maybe even every female, with her big, warm angelic smile and sweet, pleasant, teenage-girl-like voice. You could hear people talking about how amazingly adorable she was during interval.
Following the new songs, they proceeded with another round of “songs about lovely animals and delicious food”. The childlike innocent lyrics together with rather funky guitar-lines were actually the perfect fit for a Halloween night. No boring personal statement of struggles. No compulsive persuasion of self-constraints. All they have in mind is Carpe Diem, and this is the punkest thing I have ever seen. From the perky Loop Di Loop to futuristic Riding on the Rocket, it felt as if we had a barbeque party in an amusement park and then took a tour floating in the space with aliens. The pleasure was endless.
Changing from shinny costume to t-shirts, Shonen Knife encored with Sushi Bar song and let out all their energy and enthusiasm. They made everyone realize how easy happiness could be acquired. Show has ended, people carried on. Life can be so simple, and it sure has been, for this whole time.
Shonen knife’s new Album Adventure can be purchased through iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play Music and streamed on Apple Music, Bandcamp and Spotify.
Bear Up Bison
Jump into the New World
Loop Di Loop
Bad Luck Song
Riding on the Rocket
Sushi Bar Song