Shonen Knife

By Wal Reid

Artist:  Shonen Knife with support from Miss June

Date / Venue:  Wednesday January 28th, Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland

There's something unnervingly cool about three pint size Japanese girls singingThe Carpenters hit song On Top Of the World at Auckland's Kings Arms Tavern, it doesn't get much cooler than getting caught up in the moment 'throwing yo hands in the air, like you just don't care'.  It's a far cry from when the popular Japanese trio played their first gig over thirty years ago in front of a crowd of 36 people for about 100 yen (1.138 NZD)

Banana Chips is well known Shonen hit around the world but it pales mildly in comparison to new tunes Bad Luck Song (um shades of Thin Lizzy?) or their well versed I Am a Cat off their new album Overdrive, the latter has the annoyingly addictive meow/meow/meow chorus.  Actually most of their songs deal with cats or food as a subject matter, and if you were ever going to specialise in song writing subjects these two get my vote any day, however felines & food aside that didn't seem to faze the sizeable crowd intent on dancing the night away

It's not hard to see why Tarrentino used a Japanese girl band the's in his Kill Bill films, or Nicolas Winding Refn's Thai Karaoke references in Only God Forgives in their films, it's almost like being thrusted full-tilt into a surreal Asian dream sequence and this seemed totally apt for a SK concert in Auckland, at times almost unbelievable the musical frenzy onstage coming from the almost too cute doll-esque band

The group once described their music as, "oo-oo-ultra-eccentric-super-cult-punk-pop-band-shonen-knife!", their style of 70s arena punk has stuck a chord with music fans around the world, I Am U, Ramen Rock (bassist Ritsuko's fave food) and Green Tea were easily recognisable as drummer Emi, bassist Ritsuko and original founder guitarist Naoko did a splendid job introducing each other to the audience, actually they talked quite a bit and were happy engaging the crowd, Naoko in her broken accent fondly recalling the last time she played in Auckland, 18 years ago at The Big Day Out.

Devil House, E.S.P, Pop Tune and the anthemic Sushi Bar (complete with crowd participation no less) borrowed the best 3 chord riffs from 70s and 80s punk rock bands and were regurgitated with vigour.  Coupled with synchronised stage moves and sequined outfits the sporadically vocal crowd lapped it up (s'cuse the cat pun).  The girls moshed about the stage like crazy manga figurines as they romped through most of the new album Overdrive and throwing in a few older tunes to satisfy the die-hards in the audience (except for the guy shouting "muddy bubbles hell").  It's no wonder girl bands are thriving in Japan, if you only know three chords and a handful of classic punk numbers it seems like a legit hobby, even better if there's a crowd watching

After leaving the stage the girls complete with wardrobe change returned holding Shonen knife scarves adding that they would look great at an All Blacks game before getting the crowd to decide their final tune by a show of hands, either The KKK Took My Baby Away or I Wanna be Sedated by the Ramones. Of course like boxing the decision went tits-up but nobody cared.  The Ramones still closed the night and the people were happily sedated

It's much the fanfare I expected, musically it's not technically brilliant however the girls do have chops and their brand of fuelled nippon punk is highly addictive

Take a plunge into the subversive animated world of Shonen Knife, Kurt Cobain saw what was happening.  It's happy & clappy without taking itself seriously and really that's all that matters. Next stop tonight Auckland's Leigh Sawmill before heading south to Wellies & Christchurch. Believe the hype