Since 1981, Shonen Knife
has been providing the aural equivalent of a Hello Kitty lunch box to hipster stereos everywhere. Yes, you read that year correctly. The Knife has been dishing out its brand of half-broken-English, food-obsessed power pop longer than some listeners have been alive. The all-girl Japanese power trio has been "cute" for longer than Madonna's been "sexy," outlasted their best-known patron (Kurt Cobain, who took them on the road before Nevermind
broke) and probably opened the door for Japanese rock in the United States. It's hard not to imagine more adventurous artists (Cornelius, Cibo Matto) or cuter ones (Puffy AmiYumi, who seem almost like "Shonen Knife Juniors") thanking Shonen Knife for the privilege of considering themselves "big in America."
True, looking at them or listening to their music (both of which still reek of twee teen spirit), you get the feeling that they've got a Dorian Gray-esque CD in an attic in Osaka where they're wrinkled on the cover and performing waltzes. Sugar pop is sugar pop, though, and the Knife has turned out some classics of the sub-genre, including "Riding on a Rocket," "Explosion" and "I Am a Cat." Like all one-trick ponies, Shonen Knife's later CDs suffer simply through repetition of what you've already heard, but their newest, Heavy Songs, is still no worse than recent work by, say, Guided By Voices. Anyway, seeing them live in all their kawaii (Japanese for "cute") glory will still be like a sugar rush straight to the eardrums.