Shonen Knife – Osaka Ramones: A Tribute to the Ramones
Our often deep-seated cynicism about cover albums isn't without justification. Routinely deployed by creatively exhausted bands to fulfil contractual obligations in the absence of new material, tribute records can be a dispiriting prospect. Then of course there's the prospect of Japan's premier punk outfit raiding the back catalogue of the Ramones...
In stark contrast to so many tribute albums, this project makes a great deal of creative sense and offers endless tantalizing possibilities. New York's punk pioneers have had so large an influence on Osaka's Shonen Knife that the Japanese all-girl trio have occasionally performed as tribute act the Osaka Ramones. In what feels like the most natural of moves, this disc revisits that concept to celebrate not only the livewire sound of America's best punk band but also the 30th anniversary of the Japanese group who could count Kurt Cobain among their fans.
Much has changed for Shonen Knife since the days when their live show turned the Nirvana frontman “into a hysterical nine-year-old girl.” Lead vocalist and guitarist Naoko Yamano is the only member remaining from their formation in 1981, but Osaka Ramones shows that newer members Ritsuko Taneda and Emi Morimoto are well integrated on bass and drums respectively. It also shows how deep the group's love for the Ramones is; their choices of songs to cover include a few classics, but also some fan-friendly curveballs like 'Scattergun' from the final Ramones album, ¡Adiós Amigos! from 1995.
In each and every case, Ramones material and Shonen Knife performance turns out to be a marriage made in punk heaven. Yamano's basic eccentricity and especially her struggles to pronounce sounds which don't exist in Japanese add extra humour to 'Blitzkrieg Bop' and 'The KKK Took My Baby Away', while 'She's the One' benefits from the change in gender perspective to become an odd girl-on-girl love song.
Admittedly limited as they are, Osaka Ramones faultlessly achieves its aims. A lovingly-made album of faithful but dynamic covers which often flirts with genuine hilarity, it's an unmissable prospect for fans of either the Ramones or Shonen Knife themselves. For many people 'Sheena is a Punk Rocker' sums up the former band's discography, and it performs the same function here; if you don't love this deliriously fun rendition from your first listen, this isn't the record for you.
Purchase and listen
I seem to have developed a taste for reviewing solo artists with monikers, and today follows the same suit. New Jersey's producer come songwriter Steve Marion, aka Delicate Steve, who has opened for the likes of Battles, Yeasayer and Cut Copy over the years, and is set to play this year's End of the Road Festival, brings us his debut album Wondervisions, which is released through Luaka Bop. [read more]
The problem with bands making a complete racket is that all rackets tend to be completely indistinguishable from each other. This is the main issue with Heartless' début album. It's all so very loud, intense and shouty, that it all ends up sounding a bit the same. There's no room for a tune here and the vocals are inaudible, so all we get is distortion drums and screaming. For slightly less than half an hour. [read more]
Originally self-released as a download through their website in 2010, this well known Texan four-piece are now releasing Last Day Of Summer through Downtown Records. The album consists of, as the band put it, "tunes [that] have been bouncing around since the formation of the band in 06." It doesn't fit into their discography as a studio album, instead as an added bonus for anyone who is curious as to what the band get up to between records. [read more]