A sonic dessert for sweet-craving ears
Shonen Knife is a pop-punk band from Osaka, Japan. The group was formed in 1981 and experienced moderate success in America in the early ’90s; the band even went on tour with Nirvana just before the Nevermind album release. Shonen Knife is credited with being one of the bands that helped pioneer Japanese groups for international tours. Shonen Knife mentions The Buzzcocks and The Ramones as influences. They even performed as a Ramones tribute band called The Osaka Ramones for a while.
Shonen Knife—despite a few member changes—has been releasing albums consistently since 1982; their most recent release being Adventure in 2016. Keeping up their fast pace, Shonen Knife follows-up Adventure with Sweet Candy Power, a fun and engaging album. Like many of their other records, Sweet Candy Power features English lyrics for a large portion of the songs. The lyrical content is surprisingly simple considering the aggressive overtones that Shonen Knife is known for, it contrasts well, to say the least.
A Japanese cultural note: it is essential to know that in Japan, most pop bands that are featured on the radio are designed to be light, cheerful, and never too serious. The child-like lyrics do not have much depth or meaning since the intention is to keep the mood bright and fun. While other punk bands would write songs about political outrage, smashing the patriarchy or overcoming personal drama, Shonen Knife’s approach is that of an entertainer; not emotional therapy.
Tracks such as “Party,” “Dizzy” and “Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches” definitely follow the light and fluffy theme. It’s almost as if these tracks are like a sonic dessert, meant to be playful and fun. “My Independent Country,” “Wave Rock” and “Never-Never Land” are more mellow and somber in comparison; especially “My Independent Country.” The song depicts a certain level of apathy, you might think this story is funny/ but I’m the only one living in the country/ no one cares/ no one interferes.”
Even though Shonen Knife sings in English, it is still a little hard to discern the lyrics through guitarist-singer Naoko Yamano’s accent. (Not to be confused with broken English)
“Wave Rock” is a happy, upbeat summer surf-punk track. The whammy bar dive that gives it that surf feel works well. The guitar also has an offbeat Ska-like scratch on the verse. Top it off with tasteful guitar solos and delicate back-up vocals, and you get a quality summertime song in “Wave Rock.”
“Never-Never Land” has a Cranberries vibe to it. The organ sustaining in the background makes this folk-story-style song feel so nostalgic. The song feels like it should be about something more profound and emotional, but in reality, it is about losing your sunglasses at a theme park. The song sticks right to a light theme. There is something about “Never-Never Land” that makes it so catchy. Maybe it’s the story told in a retrospective tone that makes the song feel so nostalgic? It has a charm to it all.
Overall, Sweet Candy Power by Shonen Knife has a lot to offer. Thematically it may be geared to a younger audience, but the record’s light and fun style allow it to remain upbeat and enjoyable.