Shonen Knife - Adventure (Cover Artwork)

Shonen Knife

Adventure (2016)

Good Charamel records

So here I am set to review Shonen Knife’s new full length, Adventure. But this isn’t the easiest of reviews. And for a few reasons. First, it’s always a bit more difficult to review a band whose catalog dates back to 1981. How does one write a review that isn’t derivative, right? Second, it’s also a little difficult to properly put a band like Shonen Knife into context. How does one stick to the review of a single record when there’s enough history to the band to really end up writing a small biography? And, let’s be honest here, all of these problems are connected. But I’ll push forward regardless and do my best to accurately present you with Shonen Knife’s twentieth (or so) full length, Adventure.

The record itself is nothing all that new in terms of what Shonen Knife have provided listeners with for decades. They’ve once again combined pop punk with Japanese pop culture to create an easy-listening bubblegum experience. I mean, it’s literally cute. The first track and single, “Jump into the New World,” is a prime example of Shonen Knife’s sound and talent. It’ll leave you singing the chorus in your head, but it will also showcase their suburban punk balance of melody and three-chord guitar riffs.

And then there’s the album’s sixth track, “Tiny Green Tangerine.” This song is most truly what one would expect if Weezer made a children’s album. The guitar work is simple and melodic, the hook is weird but oddly catchy, and it rocks with the power of a Tonka truck. It left me honestly wondering what to make of it.

But then there’s “IMI.” The opening guitar chords are brewed from a highly-caffeinated blend of mid-1980s speed metal and California punk. The entire song itself has the urgency and tone of a riot girl band. The leads bring in just enough melody to complement the uptempo speed of the song, and the chorus would definitely prompt a great sing-along. So there’s the punk ethos alive and well in these ladies, right?

And so therein lies my problem with Adventure. The women in Shonen Knife seem to purposefully teeter between their J-pop bubblegum cuteness and the melodic punk that garnered them the praise of a ton of American alternative bands, most notably Nirvana.

I look at it this way. If you’re someone who needs to cover all of your bases in the musical underground, Adventure certainly isn’t the worst introduction to these cult idols. If you’re someone who fits the ever-growing demographic of punk-turned-parent, Adventure might be the album you and your youngster could get down with over some Capri Suns and Legos. And if you’re a Shonen Knife purist, Adventure is probably best left at the end of the catalog.