Shonen Knife entertained an appreciative Shipping Forecast audience; Getintothis’ Mark Rowley was there to take in the vibe, but also cut the crap.
The trio, featuring sisters Nacko and Atsuko Yarmeno (both original members of the band since it formed in 1981) last played in Liverpool to a sparse crowd in the Arts Club, just under 2 years ago.
This time round, whilst the venue was smaller, the crowd filled it to the point where finding a decent view was extremely difficult, (particularly as the Shonen Knife band members are not that tall).
From the off, they were all smiles and happy faces, feeling more relaxed as they settled into their set, singing mostly in English (and in parts Japanese). An early standout tune was Jump Into The New World, which features an Undertones-style opening riff, before branching off on a Blondie-influenced vocal. The band, mix various styles from The Ramones and the punk era, with the 1960s pop of The Beach Boys and even shades of Tamla Motown.
Shonen Knife has over the years accrued a cult following (including the infatuation of Kurt Cobain) and is credited with helping to open doors on an international scale for other Japanese bands. Since 1981 the band has released 20 studio albums and has recently released their first live album for over 10 years.
This was given a plug by way of introduction to the Nick Lowe cover, Cruel To Be Kind, mid-way through the set. Without wanting to sound too harsh, their version resembled something you’d hear at a karaoke; … with lame vocals, it has to be said. Despite this, it still managed to get heads nodding and no doubt some feet tapping also.
In 2018, The Rolling Stones have absolutely no relevance. The band hasn’t made a decent record since the early 1970s. The Stranglers (especially without Hugh Cornwell) are effectively pointless also. The Stone Roses, after gathering a tidy amount of cash over the past few years, realised their level of significance and rightly decided to call it time. They can now go back to being remembered for their majorly sparse but extremely high quality output in the late 1980s and 1990s.
The list goes on … The Damned is a completely insignificant entity and arguably was never anything but! Noel and Liam Gallagher are both extraneous to requirements, as are Echo & The Bunnymen. In this context, the whole point of Shonen Knife can justifiably be questioned.
Their achievements spanning a long career are highly commendable and their longevity bears testimony to this. However, aside from the notion of fandom, cult appeal and ‘having fun’, what does the band actually offer us in 2018? Are they of any relevance whatsoever?
It’s highly likely that you have to get this music, in order for it to be appreciated. In this case then, it was neither got nor really liked, aside from a few half decent songs towards the close of what seemed like a never ending set. (The band announced their last song and then played another four!)
Wasabi, with its Hendrix riff and X-Ray Spex vocal rocked; as did Ramen Rock, which had an AC/DC guitar intro and a Jack Black, School Of Rock sound. Whilst influences continued to be heard, with one song in particular sounding like Buzzcocks, the band does manage to meld it all into what is a unique, Shonen Knife sound, which kind of explains why people like them. After all, the utterly marvellous, The Fall weren’t everyone’s cup of lemon-flavoured green tea, it has to be said.
Support on the night for this Harvest Sun Promotions event was provided by Takotsubo Men, from Liverpool. The trio contains musicians who have all played in different bands signed to record labels in the 1990s. Frontman and bassist, Ste Williams is a past member of Cecil, who released 2 studio albums and toured with Mansun around 20 years ago.
Their sound is gnarly, angular, post-punk rock with songs that tend to average around two minutes duration. During the song Magic Shit, Williams went on walkabout amidst the crowd, ending up at the mixing desk, giving the sound technician a back massage. Judging by the soundman’s kipper, you got the feeling that this wasn’t scripted before the set commenced.
Takotsubo Men play decent music with an edge and are definitely worth checking out again, soon.
Images by Getintothis’ Lucy McLachlan