Review: Shonen Knife - Happy Hour
As I begin to type about Shonen knife, Dr. John of Swamp Fever, FL starts to feel a bit woody. Shonen Knife is his favorite substance in the known universe, besides his wife and child (the last part's a beautiful lie). Five days ago their drummer died in an accident in Delaware where the band van rolled over several times and landed in oncoming traffic. Yikes. Best wishes and deepest sympathies.
Here's a concise band history. I only own two of their thirteen+ releases, Let's Knife (1993) and Happy Hour (1998). They're fun, campy and delightful as can be but for some reason I can't imagine paying for their records like I would with Cub or even Ex-Girl, who owe an obvious debt to Shonen Knife. Maybe my tolerance for songs about food and animals only takes me so far. Maybe the cute meets Ramones meets kooky Japan thing confuses me. I like Shonen Knife, probably a lot, but the whole Shonen Knife THING is a bit too much for me I guess.
That said, Happy Hour is a fun and diverse record with all kinds of neat guitar tunings and added touches. It opens strangely with some mono-casio disco beats and electro-sampling, but eventually "Shonen Knife Planet" levels off and it's as weird as Ex-Girl. "Konnichiwa" is a nice fast tune and then "Cookie Day" rips out a killer ska guitar riff and a chorus so catchy it'll hook an eye. "Hot Chocolate" is club groovy and weird while "Sushi Bar Song" is like Josie and the Pussycats with "R"s pronounced as "L"s. "Fish Eyes" reminds me of Cub and the chorus on this one is great too. "Banana Chips" is mid-paced Ramones while "Dolly" slows down the riff from Iggy's "The Passenger. "Jackalope" is shagadelic. "Gyoza" opens with a stereotypical Chinese string instrument sound like Bowie used on "China Girl". "Gyoza" is Ramonesy with a chorus swiped directly from The Undertones' "More Songs About Chocolate and Girls". "People Traps" is just excellent. "His Pet" is ok and their cover of The Monkee's "Daydream Believer" more than ok.
To be honest, "Happy Hour" is reall really good record. Still, there's something so novelty about it......