By John Armstrong, Rock At Night Manchester Correspondent and Columnist
Venue: Ruby Lounge, Manchester, UK–April 14, 2016–Shonen Knife, Leggy, and Bruja
Osaka’s rock and roll export Shonen Knife began their 35th anniversary tour at Ruby Lounge in Manchester on Thursday, two weeks after the release of their 20th studio album ‘Adventure.’
Barnsley trio Bruja opened the night with a captivating set, Breeders-esque and also reminiscent of Th’ Faith Healers, spacious drums, big bass, noise guitar with soothing vocals over the top, demonstrating exactly why you should always get to a gig early.
Leggy flew in from Cincinnati and drove up to Manchester from London, arriving moments before their set time, they didn’t display any highly visible fluster and ran through their set of lush punk with aplomb, bright vocals, fuzz bass and terrific short songs.
Then three slight figures took to the stage, clad in matching, but not identical shining sliver combinations (designed and made by bass player Atsuko) and Shonen Knife were underway, with often nothing more than a rapidly tapped hi-hat tssshtssshtssshtsssh between the songs in an adrenalin rush of pleasure. They ran at breakneck speed pulsating energy and warmth throughout their truly joyous set.
Shonen Knife even do negativity in a positive light with Bad Luck Song from last year’s Overdrive album which turns into a good luck song in the end, they are about being happy and alive. They burst into BBQ Party and instantly having a barbeque is the best idea in the world, ever. They are impossibly infectious, the ska beat of Capybara (“Next song is about cute animal”) has the whole venue skanking. With a released back catalogue in the region of 200 songs there is plenty for them to pick from and classics like Twist Barbie, Bear Up Bison and Buttercup blend well with the cuts played from the latest platter.
The new Shonen Knife album opener is Jump Into The New World, a Stiff Little Fingers-esque guitar introduction that leads into an early Beatles flavoured chord progression, complete with OooLalala backing vocals and yeah yeahs delivered with their own hallmark Ramones-esque/Buzzcockian energy and crunch. Rock’n’Roll-T-Shirt is a big riffed homage to the simple honest garment of rock, while Calabash declares “even if nothing has happened history goes on.”
Dog Fight has two scarred faced dogs fighting at the seaside and inevitably one of them will lose, a backing vocal of Bow-wow-wow accompanies “don’t fight, it’s scary for me”. Wasabi is a piece of classic Shonen Knife and it is suitably hot. Green Tangerine is a homage to the cuteness of tiny baby fruit and a superb summery pop song oozing nutritious juices. ImI has more than a hint of Motorhead in the riff and melody; “It’s a big v-sign with the fingers in your mind.”
Hawaii Has a bright sunny feel with a slight Monkees tinge to the tune “I want to go to Hawaii but it is all a dream.” People do dream of holidays, and as the saying goes – it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. Tasmanian Devil is a less cute choice of animal than a cat (or a Capybara, or indeed a giant jellyfish) so he gets a wild feel to the guitars. Cotton Candy Clouds is suitably trippy; green and purple flowers are floating very high.
The heavy riffing of last years’ Overdrive album spills over into Adventure with a smattering of pop tunes to boot. 35 years on and there is no sign of slowing down, I’ll be back for more of the same in Manchester ‘Rock City’ next year. There are 22 dates in the UK and Eire tour. See them live, buy the album.
At the Ruby Lounge, Manchester
Jump Into the New World-Official Video
**Photos provided by Damnably