For over thirty years Shonen Knife have been spreading their pop punk rock styles across the globe, influencing the likes of Kurt Cobain, Sonic Youth, and Redd Kross to name a few. After coming off a well-received Ramones cover album Naoka Yamano and company returned to the studio to record their eighteenth studio album Pop Tune. The good times have returned...
Shone Knife invites their listeners with open arms with "Welcome To The Rock Club," a friendly nod to their predecessors and their influences that is sure to get your hips turning and head bobbing. The album then kicks into the title track, with Naoko encouraging everyone to think of "happy things" in order for the band to fully power up and give the best show possible. These two songs link to each other nicely, as their one-two combo is bound to hypnotize its listeners into a beach blanket bongo extravaganza.
The fun continues throughout Pop Tune, each song taking a cue from different elements of the rock world. "Mr. J" takes the surf rock motif as Naoko views a man sitting at a subway staring at a non-responsive cell phone. She pities the poor man, hoping that he will one day have a life filled with excitement instead of one filled with calm, dull moments. Perhaps he should take a voyage to "Osaka Rock City," the album's best track, which acts as a love letter to Naoko's hometown. With acts like Shonen Knife, The50Kaitenz, and Loudness calling Osaka their home, it's clear where the true rock realm lies in Japan.
Shonen Knife's two other band members have their moment in the spotlight, too. Bassist Ritsuko helms "Sunshine," a slow pop melody that could easily be mistaken for a pillows cover. Here she yearns for a change in scenery, searching for warmth on a "chilly, windy day." Ritsuko is no stranger to the mic (as evident in her Denki Candy work), and her voice adds a sort of coy innocence that hasn't really been heard in Shonen Knife before. Drummer Emi, the newest member of the group, makes her vocal debut in "Psychedelic Life," a ditty that seems more akin to the likes of Jefferson Airplane and Nice-era PUFFY. Her voice is strong, a good sign that we're bound to hear her again behind the microphone sometime soon.
If there's one thing that's always been intact with Shonen Knife, it's their sense of humor. Its tune "All You Can Eat" is a hilarious nod to buffets all across the world. Naoko advises her listeners to eat what they want, so long as they remember to grab some vegetables before jumping into the chocolate fountain. It's catchy, smile-inducing, and will get stuck in your head for days after listening to it. (Here's hoping it shows up in the next season of Yo Gabba Gabba! or The Aquabats! Super Show in some shape or form.)
When Shonen Knife drops a new album, you know a party is bound to happen in your stereo. Pop Tune is no exception, and by the time the percussion-friendly "Move On" plays its last note you might find yourself pushing the repeat button to start the shindig all over again.
**** ½ (out of five)
Pop Tune will be available in record stores and online on June 6. Press copy provided by Good Charamel Records.