Result: 3.4 / 5.0
It would be hard to think of another Japanese band that has had as much longevity as three-piece all girl punk rockers Shonen Knife. Formed in 1981, they were already up to album number five when Nirvana released Nevermind, and Overdrive marks the band’s twentieth release. Shonen Knife are a band who are entirely comfortable in the realms of noisy, cute-pop-punk rock, and this latest offering is certainly no different. Opening track ‘Bad Luck Song’ kicks off with a pretty standard surf-rock riff that washes in like a wave being ridden by The Ramones, and despite the song’s title, showcases the band’s trademark sunny disposition. But this is where the sunniness ends.
For Overdrive, Shonen Knife have tapped into the darer side of their personalities as ‘Black Crow’ and ‘Ramen Rock’ amply demonstrate. The songs stomp along with a brash Led Zeppelin/Black Sabbath confidence, and this is carried through to the plodding, bluesy ‘Shopping’, even though this track also has just the right level of kitsch to sound like something from the Roadhouse soundtrack and get away with it. It’s interesting that a band with such a long lineage can confidently make and album with subject matter almost entirely based on animals and food and still sound coherent and credible. Overdrive houses some truly ostentatious moments too, not least in the bouncy ‘Like A Cat’ when the song, ostensibly about how great it would be to be feline, suddenly discharges one of the slickest guitar breaks imaginable.
Shonen Knife have never sounded like they take themselves too seriously, and judging by their public persona I think it’s safe to say they don’t, but Overdrive sees the band in a more serious mood as they channel some darker hard rock throughout the album. Having said that, over thirty years down the line, Shonen Knife are still capable of writing genuinely engaging songs based around their favourite Ramen dishes, and the heavier tone to this album doesn’t take away from their musical playfulness. Overdrive may be darker than their usual output, but it’s still more Candy Crush than Skull Crusher.
Overdrive is out now on Damnably.