Thursday 28 June 2012

Shonen Knife - Pop Tune

Album review by KevW

The Osaka Ramones return with their eighteenth studio album. Such an output and a career lasting over thirty years with only one original member remaining would suggest we should perhaps begin referring to them as the Japanese Status Quo instead. Much like the denim-clad dad-rockers you generally know what to expect from a new Shonen Knife album, although recent years have seen them take a slightly heavier direction. 'Pop Tune', as its title would indicate, marks a return to the more harmony led, bubblegum powerpop that's gained them such a cult following in the past. And it's nothing short of stupendously good fun and near faultless from beginning to end, ideas are churned out in such a way that it's difficult not to be envious of how easy they make it all seem.

The girls are of course past masters at all this, and opener 'Welcome To The Rock Club' may as well be a Ramones cover. It's pure melodic-punk perfection that launches straight into the grin inducing single 'Pop Tune', a song so effortlessly perfect in its simple pop thrills that it should be taught as part of the national curriculum. Not many bands could get away with writing an adorable song about visiting an 'All You Can Eat' restaurant (sample lyric "before you grab a plate, decide which one you want, then help yourself to the food... don't forget to take some vegetables!"), but then not every band is Shonen Knife. It's even got a bloody kazoo solo and still sounds astonishingly good.

The simply beautiful 'Paper Clip' is verging on psychedelic pop and its breezy electric strums and sighed backing vocals are a treat for the ears. 'Psychedelic Life' talks of "burning incense", "being lost in meditation" and "acting like a Bohemian", throwing in a flute solo to drive the point home. The song itself is no hippy nonsense, it's, of course, more bubblegum pop. Something which these girls do better and more naturally than pretty much anyone else. The buzzing 'Ghost Train' is a potential future single and 'Move On' is as catchy as they come, that arresting melody being stretched out to five minutes, something that would normally yield diminishing returns but here still doesn't feel long enough. On 'Pop Tune' Shonen Knife have demonstrated that they're pretty much peerless in this field, and they remain the most endearing and one of the best bands around.

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