Cult Japanese pop-punk trio Shonen Knife celebrate their 35th Anniversary this year with a brand new album Adventure – and they will visit Edinburgh’s Summerhall on 28 April.
Formed in Osaka by guitarist and chief songwriter Naoko in 1981, Shonen Knife rose from humble DIY beginnings to sharing a stage with Nirvana on their Nevermind tour – blazing a trail along the way for women in music and inspiring legions of bands.
For their 19th album original drummer Atsuko returns to play bass, joining Naoko (vocals + guitar) and relative newcomer Risa on drums, whilst some bass parts were provided by regular member Ritsuko (who is on maternity leave) and Naru, who became an official member from a support band.
Adventure, which is out on 1 April, sees the band delving deeper in to the 70s rock leanings that they explored on their last album Overdrive.
“Passing through the 70s, the music genre which was born as rock’n’roll developed to ROCK,” says Naoko. “This album is like that.”
Musical references include Thin Lizzy, Motorhead and Deep Purple, but there is still an excitable pop element to the music. There are catchy hooks and 60s girl-group inspired harmonies along the way, but the album is firmly rooted in 70s Rock.
Opener Jump Into The New World, about new drummer Risa moving to Osaka from her hometown of Oita, is one of the poppiest tracks on the record, whereas in Rock’n’Roll T-shirt the 70s rock groove really kicks in, with heavy, chugging power chords and fun lyrics about every rocker’s favourite item of clothing.
Hawaii is one of the mellower songs on the album and inevitably includes surf sounds.
Tasmanian Devil was written after Shonen Knife played a festival in Tasmania, Australia last year. It is about the native animals, the Tasmanian Devils, and is the first Shonen Knife song to feature duel lead vocals, which are shared between Naoko and Atsuko.
The album continues the Shonen Knife tradition of singing about food.
Wasabi is a Motorhead-esque ode to Japan’s favourite condiment and Green Tangerine is about Kabosu tangerines – a local specialty of Risa’s hometown, Oita.
Cotton Candy Clouds is based on one of Naoko’s favourite motifs, cotton candy. It plays homage to 70s-era Beatles, with a colourful arrangement and layered vocal harmonies.
Despite their 35 years as a band, Shonen Knife still sound as fresh and vital as they ever did.