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Shonen Knife – Overdrive

Damnably

Shonen Knife - OverdriveShonen Knife tend to massively divide opinion. And, contrary to what you may have been told by the well-meaning, there ARE opinions which are right and opinions which are wrong and worthy of no respect. Some people find their Ramones-drenched girlpop infuriatingly twee- these people have the WRONG opinion, and should be pointed and laughed at in the street. Others think their particular brand of kawaii-core (yeah, I did just make that up. Whatcha gonna do about it?) to be a truly wonderful thing and perhaps even capable of one day bringing about global peace and harmony. This is the RIGHT opinion. And these are, of course, the only two possible opinions available on Shonen Knife. And you don’t want to be pointed and laughed at in the street, do you? You do? Oh. OK. Whatever.

Yeah, maybe I’m overstating my case a little, but, well, only a little. Shonen Knife ARE wonderful, and I defy even the haters to attend a gig without smiling. Can’t be done. I mean, I could imagine someone not liking Shonen Knife, and pity them for it, but I don’t think actively DISliking them is even possible for a human being. But we’re here to talk about a record (as we used to call them back in the day), Overdrive (as this one is called in the here and now). And it’s great.

Overdrive contains some of Shonen Knife’s darkest work to date, although of course it’s all still way more uplifting than a very uplifting thing indeed. Maybe a crane of some sort. I don’t know. It’s hypothetical anyway. Hell, even the opener is titled “Bad Luck Song,” and it comes on like Thin Lizzy‘s “The Boys Are Back In Town.” But happier. And (spoiler alert) it turns out that the bad luck song might actually be a good luck song with the application of some positivity. The follow-up, “Black Crow,” is what I hear in my head every morning when I wake up. Which is kinda neat, as it’s a hard-rockin’ classic metal song all about not wanting to be woken up from a dream (specifically by a black crow, which isn’t usually how I do it, but it’s a pretty universal feeling). And this means it’s so insanely catchy that my subconscious applies it to appropriate situations EVEN WHEN I’M ASLEEP. Yeah, that’s kind of awesome.

Chunky riffs abound — “Ramen Rock,” for example, is a bluesy headbanger with a stadium-filler of a chorus. About noodles. And “Shopping” is a glam-rock stomper which would be sleazy were it not so wholesome. Even a hardened anti-capitalist like me has to agree that, yes, shopping is actually quite fun. But then, ANYTHING’s actually quite fun if you have Shonen Knife on the iPod. But they don’t stray TOO far from the Joey and Johnny template, and there are a couple of “Blitzkrieg Bop”-level melodic punkouts in the shape of “Dance To The Rock” and “Jet Shot,” if you fancy a pogo. And, of course, there’s a new song about a cat (the only musician who mentions cats more than Shonen Knife is Robert Smith, and he mentions cats an awful lot), called “Like A Cat,” which has a great meow-along (or nyan-along) chorus.

But what about that darkness? Oh, we got darkness. We got “Robots From Hell.” But even they sound quite jolly, all things considering, especially for a tremendous piece of gothy sludge metal such as this. If they spell the end of humankind, it looks like we’re going out on a high note. The whole thing comes on like The Ramones jamming with The Ronnettes, followed by some green tea, a trip to the shops, killer robots and a big bowl of noodles. It all makes sense in Shonen Knife’s world, which is a damn sight better than the one the rest of us live in. It’s nice to be invited there occasionally. And yeah, I WOULD want to live there. Who wouldn’t?

People who are WRONG, that’s who.

-Justin Farrington-

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