Beat on the Brat
Most of the time, the release of a tribute album begs the question “Does this band really deserve more tribute than we already gave them?” There are, of course, rare exceptions when a band meets an untimely demise or were too far ahead of the time to survive in their present. In those cases, a tribute album becomes necessary. But does a band that’s become a household name, never mind inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, really deserve to be given any further tribute? Furthermore, should a band as good as Shonen Knife be paying tribute to the Ramones?
The Ramones’ principal appeal has always been four dudes who didn’t know how to play their instruments managing to pull it off somehow. They’re even the first to admit that when they started to actually learn how to play guitar, their output suffered in a big way. On the flipside, Shonen Knife’s always had solid musicians who weren’t content to play punk rock by formula. As a consequence, they’ve produced some of the best pure punk over the course of the last thirty years.
Osaka Ramones presents us with an audio dilemma. You have Naoko Yamono, a true black belt guitarist, trying to play Punk 101 songs in a way that pays tribute to songwriters who couldn’t write music. Though all the covers are well done, there’s a sense of struggle on the part of the band. It’s as if they don’t want you to enjoy their versions too much. The struggle manifests itself best in the form of “We Want the Airwaves,” where Naoko reigns herself in during the solo, as if she’s afraid of offending the spirit of Johnny Ramone by playing too well.
Overall, Osaka Ramones is worth getting if you’re a Ramones fan. If you’re a Shonen Knife fan, however, you’ll find yourself wishing they’d chosen a more challenging subject. Perhaps a Shen Shinki tribute album instead?