1. Jump into the New World
2. Rock’n’roll T-shirt
4. Dog Fight
6. Green Tangerine (Kabosu)
9. Tasmanian Devil
10. Cotton Candy Clouds
Release date: April 1, 2016
Osaka’s pop-punk queens Shonen Knife are back in 2016 with their 20th studio album to date. I’ve been following the band since the mid-1990s, so as is obvious by the previous statement, they have a pretty sizable catalog of music by now, and unlike most bands who have been around this long and released that much material, most of it is pretty enjoyable, as each album usually has about half of the track list keeping my interest, if not more.
This album also marks a few special occasions for the band, since it’s the first album in over a decade to feature founding member and original drummer/bassist, Atsuko, on the bass, and also the first recording with their new drummer, Risa. I was anticipating this album a bit since their last effort, 2014’s Overdrive was a solid release and the preview tracks released for Adventure seemed to carry that same style and level of quality.
Starting off the tracklist is the first single, “Jump into the New World,” with a trademark Shonen Knife 70s punk sound and a fun, playful pop melody on top of the instrumental. The pre-chorus features some backup vocal harmonies, and the whole song keeps the usual classic rock/punk sound you’ll hear from them in almost all of their releases.
The simplicity of their music is where so much of the charm lies; with catchy pop punk throughout, sing-along vocal melodies, cute and fun English lyrics sung with a strong Japanese accent, and this song embodies all of those things all at once. You can hear the full song and see the video here:
After the opening track, they shed the punk-y cuteness and opt for all-out rock for the next few tracks. “Rock’n’roll T-shirt” follows, with a heavy 70s rock sound with booming bass and heavy stomping riffs, and “Calabash” follows, with a faster-paced classic rock style similar to something you’d hear from Deep Purple in their heyday. These songs don’t break any new ground, but they’re a fun homage to that era of classic rock.
The next track, “Dog Fight” returns to a slightly cuter sound with a fun 1960s soft-rock sound with just a touch of melancholy, making for one of the best songs so far, despite the creepy lyrics about seeing dogs used in dog fighting.
“Wasabi” features vocals by Atsuko, cranking out another 70s-inspired rock song with a style a little too corny for my taste, leaving the song pretty unmemorable. “Green Tangerine” is next, with vocal duties handled by Risa, and it’s a sweet and calm 1960s folk sound, another one of the better tracks featured here.
The next track turns off all sweetness and aims for solid rock, with “ImI” kicking into high gear to sound exactly like a more punk version of Motorhead or other early thrash-y NWOBHM bands, and this is easily the best of the hard rock tracks offered here.
Next is the sweet and dreamy “Hawaii,” where Naoko sings about eating food and swimming on Hawaiian beaches, with a calm and swaying 1960s surf-rock sound using layered twangy guitars and lots of vocal harmonies, and this has to be my favorite song on the record. Here’s a short studio diary of the album, featuring a clip of “Hawaii”:
The next track “Tasmanian Devil” is another fairly run-of-the-mill hard rock song, where its slow pace keeps it from being very memorable, even if not unpleasant.
Finishing out the album, we have “Cotton Candy Clouds,” another psychedelic 1960s style folk anthem, full of reverb-drenched guitars with chant-y vocal harmonies and lyrics about eating clouds made of cotton candy. There’s lots of Revolver/Magical Mystery-era Beatles influence with reversed tape tracks making for some trippy passages towards the end. The song is a lot of fun and lends itself to being an album closer, with it’s slow pace and float-y sound.
As I had expected, this album follows a similar pattern to almost all of SK’s previous releases, with more than half of the songs being very simple, fun, and enjoyable, and just a short few songs on the forgettable side. They tend to do better with the cuter and more melodic songs (“Jump,” “Dog Fight,” “Green Tangerine,” “Hawaii”) but “ImI” was quite a surprise and ends up being one of their strongest hard rock tracks in their career so far.
The album focuses a little less on the punk sounds than made them famous and a little more on the hard-hitting rock tracks, maybe even moreso then their previous effort, but it still has an equal amount of the more fun and cute songs to balance it out.
If you’ve listened to and enjoyed any of their material before, you’ll definitely find something to like here, but if you’re new to the group, I wouldn’t say it’s one of their strongest discs to introduce yourself to them with, as albums like Happy Hour and Pop Tune would be better places to start.
With both Naoko and Atsuko over 50 years old now, these girls still know how to craft catchy and fun tunes with a decent amount of variety, which is more than can be said for most bands who have been around for over 35 years. Their music isn’t musically challenging by any means, but it’s the most fun kind of music to sit back and enjoy for all of its upbeat, poppy and campy glory.
Definitely give this a listen if you’re at all familiar with the band or looking for some fun and catchy Japanese pop-rock to get stuck in your head from time to time. It’s available digitally on iTunes and Amazon in the West, so it’s easy to get a hold of.
Shonen Knife will be touring Europe and the rest of the world in support of this album, so get out to see them when they come around to you, and you can always check tour dates at their Official website and social media pages.
Adventure de Buttobase!