Rightfully refusing to relent releasing material, Japanese cult outfit Shonen Knife are back with their twentieth studio album. The trio have long been at the forefront of Asian musical exports, famously gatherign support from the likes of Nirvana and John Peel earlier in their longstanding career.
Continuing defiantly to produce exuberant underground pop punk which not only spans decades but the world too, the trio are now in their thirty-third year together. Conceptually inspired by the rock and roll sounds of the 1970’s, Overdrive does not fall short of expectations – it’s a cheering, ten track exploration of retro riffs filtered through the undeniable prism of Japanese punk. It’s a punchy take on reminiscent bands like Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, but it’s done with a much lighter delivery, and pop sensibilities abound within the two-piece harmonies.
Swathes of stern guitar chords open the album with “Bad Luck Song”, which despite its miserable connotations ends up being a sunny, optimistic number that hums with Seventies nostalgia. Instantly turning the gloomy into the life affirming, it should be saved for every rainy day.
“Black Crow” sits bolshie in comparison as Shonen Knife dip into the more psychedelic realm with drawling guitar and dreamy chants. It’s here you can understand why the band were a hit with bands like Sonic Youth in the past, as forthright dark warnings are given a hulking punk treatment.
The band continue to switch these moments of furrowed attitude with J-rock mood lighteners. Even the most stoic of listeners will find it hard to stand still to “Dance To The Rock”, even when pop elements creep dangerously close to being cheesy during in the karaoke chorus. Similarly, “Ramen Rock”, “Green Tea” and “Fortune Cookies” all deal with the whimsical but manage to convey literal love for Asian edible items in a wonderfully surreal way.
Ending on the edgier “Robots From Hell” and jilting “Jet Shot”, the band show that despite their longevity in the game they remain keen to explore new ground and make the everyday more animated. With all of their untameable if bizarre likeability, Shonen Knife are clearly a band that can just keep on giving.