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Review: Shonen Knife at Radio Radio

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Monday, Nov. 14
Radio Radio

Of all the aesthetically-impeccable all-female three-decade-veteran Japanese pop bands to come out of Osaka, I can guarantee that none of them rock the Piet Mondrian look quite like Shonen Knife.

Shonen Knife’s performance at Radio Radio was like something out of another time — when the big-time rock stars were still close enough to touch and familiar enough to pop out after the show to meet with their biggest fans. Musically, it was the sound that defined the 1990s — and, in fact, influenced a lot of the grunge scenesters — and appeared on more than a few indie film soundtracks of the era.

The two newer members performed with a delirious energy; Emi attacked the drums for all they were worth and Ritsuko struck a hair-banging pose every chance she got. In general, they were getting a tremendous kick from stagesmanship. Sole remaining founding member Naoko played the role of the somber veteran — aka Joey Ramone’s job — but, nonetheless, beamed as she blazed through the guitar solos and vocals.

Naoko remarked to us that she would love to play with Cheap Trick sometime, and to be honest, I can totally see why — they carry at least as much Cheap Trick influence as Ramones. They played brief, chipper tunes with a bit more of a classic blues-rock tone than the Ramones, with a gleeful sense of playful abandon as they rip through one zippy song after another. The band performed for just over an hour, but the energy and spunk made it all feel quite a bit longer (in the best way possible).

For their encore, the band occasionally known as the Osaka Ramones cut loose with a series of Ramones covers, paying tribute to the band that influenced Naoko so long ago. And damn if all the hey-ho, let’s go business doesn’t resonate as well today as it did 30 years past. It was a sound that both fills you with energy and still tweaks a nostalgic sigh, “Ah, this is how it must have been.” But it was also a deliriously perky reminder that sometimes it can still be that way.

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