Shonen Knife @ The Zoo

These sugary sweet pop punkers have still got it

Japanese pop punk legends Shonen Knife returned to Australia (and Brisbane) for the fourth time in their 30 year history and proved they have lost none of their joyous energy.
 
Before them though was the supports, starting with The Stress Of Leisure. In matching Andy Warhol shirts and scarves, they certainly looked striking together; though the focus of attention is definitely singer and guitarist Ian Powne, whose movement on stage and witty song introductions gives him a distinctive stage presence. The music is new wave style keyboard pop, and fittingly for this show their set included a song called Pulled Pork, though I don't know that their tribute to the meal is as wholehearted as some of the others we would hear through the night.
 
I Heart Hiroshima were next. After a lengthy hiatus it seems they are now again a regular presence. The set tonight is a mix of old and new songs - I think the new ones are a bit more lush and a bit less twitchy and angular. Still sounding great though. One of the things I have always loved about I Heart Hiroshima is the drum beats - the kit is so minimal but Sullivan Patten's beats are quite unique with all the staccato jabs and accents.
 
With a roar from the crowd, Shonen Knife took to the stage. They were another band in matching outfits - sequinned dresses with tassels, apparently made by bass player Atsuko Yamano. They announced their intentions early, with a fast buzzsaw riff and those glorious harmonies. For a band that formed in 1981, their energy is admirable - headbanging, fistpumping and always looking like they were having the time of their life.
 
A few songs in, guitarist and lead vocalist Naoko Yamano announces "we're going to play some songs about delicious food!" She's not lying either - the band proceed to reel through half a dozen musical tributes to various dishes; ranging from ramen noodles to barbecues, via wasabi and sushi. They had already played the classic Banana Chips - not since Robert Burns serenaded the haggis two centuries ago has a songwriter made themselves so synonomous with a single comestible. The songs about food are of course one of Shonen Knife's great appeals. There is something primal about this band - their music is the base elements of loud guitars and sweet melodies, their subject matter the simple pleasures of life.
 
Of course if Shonen Knife were a food they would be something sweet. At times it's almost too sweet. Between songs when new drummer Risa Kawano says in a high-pitched voice how excited she is to be in Australia and then waves her hands in the air frantically; it was like that moment of recoil when you stuff a whole bag of lollies in your mouth.
 
Mostly though Shonen Knife let loose an intoxicating spirit. They are not so much a band as a whole worldview. When they throw up the horns or do cheesy rockstar moves there's no sense of irony - this band has surrendered completely to the forces of rock'n'roll. The beaming expressions on everyone's faces at the end of the show indicated that, even if only temporarily, they can still seduce a few people to succumb too.
Andy Paine

Zed Facts

When 4ZZZ's original space was being built by hand under the Schonell Theatre at Queensland University, a baby grand piano from the theatre above was bricked in to Studio 3. We don't know how they got it out...