I need to come out of the closet about this one: I do not like Shonen Knife. I do not understand their appeal, and I do not like their music. I credit their success to dumb luck and timing.
But Shonen Knife opened the back door to American success. While Sony was too busy using trying to strong arm Matsuda Seiko through the mainstream radio gate, Shonen Knife dug a tunnel to the underground and caught the attention of one Kurt Cobain. I appreciate Shonen Knife for at least presenting an alternate perception of Japanese music — one that didn’t involve "Sukiyaki" or Pink Lady & Jeff.
I just don’t have to listen to them.
For a little while, Shonen Knife begat an A&R goldrush for the next quirky Japanese band to sign with an American label. Matador staked out Pizzicato Five, while the Beastie Boys’ Grande Royal snatched up Buffalo Daughter. The cynic in me dismissed Buffalo Daughter as just another weird pop confection riding the Shonen Knife coattails.
Over time, Buffalo Daughter has revealed itself as a band with no regard for an aesthetic map. The trio really loves to make it up as they go along.
So while 2001’s I is a straight-forward indie rock album, 2002’s Pshychic is a prolonged jam session. 2005’s Euphorica, meanwhile, is an unsettling marriage between the Sugarcubes and Polysics.
New Rock, released in 1998, was at one point available in the US. It went out of print with Grande Royal’s demise at the turn of the century.
"Socks, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll" symbolizes that gold rush of yore. It is, indeed, a quirky tune with a lot of humor. And it’s cute. Not Shonen Knife cute, but certainly cute on its own terms.
For that, I’m grateful.