MUSIC REVIEW: Overdrive by Shonen Knife

Posted on January 19, 2015








I do not normally review music but sometimes I come across something that I think worth mentioning. And so I turn to the sounds of Shonen Knife.

Shonen Knife is a Japanese female pop-punk band that has achieved cult status. They were first formed as a three-piece in 1981 and are still going with founder-member, Naoko Yamano, still singing and playing guitar. They achieved commercial success during the peak years of the alternative rock scene, touring and recording with the likes of Sonic Youth and Nirvana with Curt shonen_knife_on_stage_aug_2014_use_thisKobain an open fan.

I only ‘discovered’ Shonen Knife in more recent times and enjoyed a number of their albums – and there are plenty to be found. You are not going to find soaring guitar solos or deeply poetic lyrics on one of their albums. Their approach is still quite stripped down and basic, their sound showing their Ramones influences. And the big part, for me at least, is there is a sense of fun in their music. Look them up on YouTube and it is easy to see they are out their having fun. And transmit that to their audiences.

The latest album, Overdrive, was recently released and there are currently touring Australia and New Zealand (but, alas, not coming to Canberra).

Overdrive is a mixed bag. It opens with a power-chord heavy rhythm Bad Luck Sun followed by a similar approach to Black Crow. Dance to the Rock is more of a 70s glam rock influence dance track, which the band says was part of their influences for this album. The bit heavier sound returns with Ramen Rock. Then we reach Shopping. It has a quirky sound but even though I do not expect lyrical poem in Shonen Knife lyrics, this one went too far. The lyrics, whether satirical or not, are terrible. Fortune Cookie is too cloying for my taste and I do not think it sits terribly well with their sound. The remainder of the album, Like A Cat, Green Tea, Robots From Hell and Jet Shot, return to the 70s rock sounds.

I am not sure that Overdrive will necessarily bring Shonen Knife a lot of new fans by itself but the existing fan base should appreciate it. But perhaps people who are not too familiar with this long-lived cult outfit might find enough in Overdrive to send them looking for more from the back catalogue. Worth exploring if you’re curious.

Ross sig

Posted in: Review