Thirty years into their career, Japanese premier female pop-punk trio Shonen Knife are showing no signs of slowing down. Their last studio album of original material, 2010’s “Free Time” (which was belatedly released in the UK in 2011), has been one of the best received of their career, with extensive play on BBC 6music and a well-received UK tour, which included their first ever gig in Belfast.
2012 sees the release of the band’s 18th studio album, “Pop Tune.” A rather self-knowing title, given that all but one of the tracks clock in below the 4 minute mark.
In some ways, the album treads different ground to its predecessor “Free Time”. There is a slightly more serious tone to the album this time around. Songs like the mid-tempo Britpop sounding “Sunshine” (which features bassist Ritsuko on lead vocals) and the album closer “Move On” seem to showcase a more mature side to the band, with the overall production feeling a little less polished in comparison to its predecessor.
Furthermore, while a large amount of songs in Shonen Knife’s back catalogue are based around food or cute animals (a fact that singer/guitarist Naoko has acknowledged on many occasions), only one track on the album deals with one of these topics, “All You Can Eat”. The track is a gloriously daft one, one which mixes wonderfully irreverent lyrics (sample: “when you go to an all you can eat, don’t forget to take some vegetables”) and a kazoo solo for good measure.
However, the album still has the familiar fingerprints of Shonen Knife all over it. The album’s title track is one of poppiest songs released this year, with life affirming lyrics (“since you’re already here, think of happy things), and wonderful harmony vocals. The short bursts of opening track “Welcome To The Rock Club” and the Kiss pastiche “Osaka Rock City” serve as a reminder as to why the band are often called the Osaka Ramones.
“Pop Tune” is a great album from a band that is very much a one-of-a-kind act. While there are a few more mellow moments to the album than one would expect from Shonen Knife, on the whole it is a fantastically bonkers, energetic, and above all, fun album from the Japanese trio.
Released: 25th June 2012
Highlights: "Pop Tune", "All You Can Eat", "Sunshine".