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Shonen Knife
Free Time Julian Marszalek , July 21st, 2011 12:05

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To bemoan the lack of surprises on this, the 15th album in 30 years from Japan's top female power punk trio, is to complain that the sun rises and sets with a predictable regularity or that the 10 O'Clock News has lost its ability to startle by kicking off at its appointed hour. So while their musical progression can be charted in terms of millimetres, Shonen Knife's gloriously infectious buzzsaw rock & roll remains firmly in place to charm the pants off even the most of cynical and hardened of churls.

What's at play here is a sense of unconfined joy and playfulness, delivered by a band untarnished by cynicism or hand-wringing ennui. Not for them a world of deliberation, long looks in to the dark night of the soul or the general problems that plague the average human being during their waking hours; this is a day-glo planet where the sun always shines, and the trees are made of candyfloss, and songs are sung in terms of wide-eyed optimism and an ongoing sense of wonder.

Their perceived naivety is thanks in part to the band's handling of the English language. In lesser hands, 'Rock'n'Roll Cake' – with its revelation that "I want to eat nothing but rock'n'roll cake / It goes very well with Earl Grey tea" – would be enough to bring on a laughter-induced coronary but here, sincerity and innocence coalesce into an irresistible sugar-rush nugget. Factor in Shonen Knife's innate knack with a melody and firm grasp of girl-group dynamics and just for a short time the greyness of the city transforms into a much happier place.

Could it really be any different from a band that's depicted on the cover as riding a giant ferret tackling a building-crush jellyfish? Of course it's daft; it's supposed to be – this is untamed rock & roll, after all. And yet through it all – the electrifying ramalama of opener 'Perfect Freedom' or the dance inducing 'Monster Jellyfish', a song packed with so many hooks it scales the wall and winks at you from the ceiling - comes one moment from the real world in the shape of 'Economic Crisis'. Though hardly the kind of insight that will give the IMF pause for thought, it nonetheless offers a flipside to the band's smiling worldview as it dips into Lemmy's bag of tricks for musical fuel.

Shonen Knife's confectionary doesn't claim to offer musical nutrition but, used sparingly and as a special treat, the invigorating buzz that travels from your head down to your toes is simply unbeatable.

Ian Learmonth
Jul 22, 2011 12:40pm

Great review, Julian.
I remember seeing Shonen Knife support Nirvana. I loved the way they gave a little bow after each song, made me smile a lot.

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