shonen knife jelly bean staying power (how could you NOT uka-boo?)

13 Jalal 168 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Shonen Knife, “On Top Of The World”

I always find it fascinating to see which musical groups have staying power and which ones don’t.  The ones that do often surprise me.  Perhaps the last band I would have ever imagined lasting thirty years is a Japanese punk-pop band called Shonen Knife.  I first heard their song “Twist Barbie” in 1986, and they sounded like Hello Kitty trying to imitate the Ramones. However, they were actually formed in 1981, which means that they have been around for thirty years now. Below is another video from about 1986.


Their roots are solidly punk and indie rock, pretty much completely ignoring the J-Pop movement that was developing the same time they were.  But I don’t think that even Johnny Rotten could have imagined the rather warped directions that three Japanese women would take the punk rock genre.  Their career has been characterized by exuberant and positive songs–frequently in broken English–about subjects such as jelly beans, fruit loops, pot scrubbers, insect collections, and banana chips.  Yet combined with a buzzsaw guitar and drums that would make any punk rocker want to pogo, the music is infectious.  Prominent alternative rock bands in the late 80’s and early 90’s were among their biggest fans.. (They wrote a rather exuberant song called “Redd Kross,” an alt rock band in the late 80’s, and the L.A. band returned the favor by writing a song called “Shonen Knife.”) One of their biggest fans was Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, and Shonen Knife opened for them on one of their tours. 


In the mid 90’s, on “If I Were A Carpenter,” an alt-rock tribute to The Carpenters, they did a cover of “On Top Of The World.”  I’m not sure how Karen Carpenter would feel about the song, but in my view it is the Best. Cover. Version. Of. Any. Song. Ever.  In the video below, you can see that despite thirty years and some personnel changes (founding member Naoko Yamano is the only one remaining from the original trio), they have not lost their edge.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.