Desert Island Discs: “Happy Hour” by Shonen Knife (1998)Posted: June 7, 2012
“When I finally got to see them live, I was transformed into a hysterical nine-year-old girl at a Beatles concert.” – Kurt Cobain
“Shonen Knife rocks like Motorhead designed by Hanna-Barbera.” – Uncut Magazine
“Theoretically, any band that writes songs with lyrics such as ‘Banana chips for you!/Banana chips for me!/ In the afternoon, banana chips and tea’ should have a life span no longer than that of a grasshopper. But something oddly spellbinding occurs when deceivingly silly lyrics are sandwiched between a buoyant guitar and a rapid-fire, pop-punk drum kit. Which perhaps explains why the Japanese female rock trio Shonen Knife is still singing songs about cookies, sushi, jelly beans, and, of course, banana chips, nearly 25 years after its inception.” – Christopher Murther, Boston Globe
“Objectively, it could be pointed out that they can only play in a rudimentary fashion, that their songs are ludicrously simple, and that they are not doing anything new. Objectivity can fuck right off, because Shonen Knife are brilliant.” – Artrocker Magazine
Look, no matter how erudite and pretentious we think it is, no matter how many term papers you wrote in grade 10 about the deep meanings to be found in the White Album – rock’n’roll is fun music that makes you want to dance. Shonen Knife get that. This is an album to play first thing in the morning to make you throw back the covers and leap out of bed.
Shonen Knife was formed in December 1981 in Osaka, Japan with sisters Naoko and Atsuko Yamano and their friend Michie Nakatani. The lineup has changed over thirty-some years, but Naoko is still at the helm. Much like Buzzcocks, the band’s name has cost it some US airplay. The name translates to “boy knife,” which is the Japanese term for the pocket knife issued to Boy Scouts. Radio programmers can be stupid.
The prize of the CD is their cover of “Daydream Believer,” written by John C. Stewart and a hit by a couple of different artists. Sorry, Davy Jones; sorry, Anne Murray; the Japanese girls own this one now. I love how Naoko sings, “My shaving razor cold and it sting.” This version is from a TV performance, and features a bit of “Sushi Bar Song” under the closing credits.
This is the Japanese-language version of “Banana Chips.” Frankly, the video is kind of a Freudian nightmare. But you won’t be able to keep from singing along. “Banana chips… oh yeah!”
It’s a beautiful cookie day! Got a little bit of a ska thing going on. And you gotta love: “I have a postcard of a big buffalo. I bought it during the tour. I missed a chance to send it to you, back in North Dakota.”
Sometimes you just want music that makes you grin and jive and sing along even if you don’t know the language. “Happy Hour” is one of those for me, and definitely a Desert Island Disc.