Shonen Knife - Osaka Ramones (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Shonen Knife

Osaka Ramones (2011)

Good Charamel

More than 12 bands have released full-length albums composed solely of Ramones material, with many of the bands simply playing a Ramones album in its entirety. There are more than 16 additional Ramones tribute albums. By this point, bands that play Ramones songs aren't so much playing covers as they are playing the newest from of Americana. Interestingly, this phenomenon has crossed the mighty Pacific, and long-running J-pop band Shonen Knife has just released Osaka Ramones, a collection of studio recordings of the band playing Ramones songs as their part time alter-egos, the Osaka Ramones.

In the spirit of their subjects, Shonen Knife tears though 13 songs and thee chords in about 32 minutes. The versions presented here are energetic, simple, and reverent. While many Ramones covers tend to over-emphasize one aspect of the Ramones in lieu of the others, such as focusing on the Beach Boys influences or playing rapid renditions that lose the internal soul of the songs, here, Shonen Knife is able to walk that fine line between depressed aggression and detached introspection that the Ramones invented.

The most striking feature of the release are the vocals. While the music is fairly standard Ramones aping, rarely are Ramones songs covered by female performers, and even more so, rarely are they covered by Japanese females. As a result, the vocals re-tune the youthful exuberance of early Ramones recordings, but maintain a quirkiness of a woman singing songs that are very often from the male perspective. Sometimes the delivery is a little unusual, as some of the songs seem to be sung phonetically, even though the members Shonen Knife are fluent in Enlgish. But then again, sometimes it seemed like the Ramones were singing phonetic versions of their own material.

The song selection makes the album one of the better Ramones tributes. Although the group uses mega classics like "Blitzkrieg Bop", "Pinhead" and "Rockaway Beach" as anchors, they also dip into some of the less famous but fantastic, songs including "We Want the Airwaves", "Scattergun" and "We're a Happy Family".

Obviously, these cuts aren't going to replace the originals. But they are fun diversions that show the ubiquitousness and dearth of the Ramones' influence on music worldwide.