Personnel: Naoko Yamano (vocals, guitar, background vocals); Risa Kawano (organ, drums, percussion, background vocals); Atsuko (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Ippei Suda.
Recording information: Yotsubashi LM Studio.
Photographer: Akira Shibata.
In celebration of their 35th anniversary, Japanese bubblegum-punk veterans Shonen Knife released their 20th album, Adventure. As the title -- and first single "Jump Into the New World" -- suggests, the band has a wide-eyed view toward the future, with a new(-ish) lineup and revitalized energy. Founding drummer-turned-bassist Atsuko Yamano returned to the fold, joining her sister Naoko and new drummer Risa Kawano, a lifelong fan of the band. The Shonen Knife ethos remains: adorable lyrics, bountiful energy, upbeat positivity, and a purity of intent that makes each of the ten tracks so irresistible. It's also insanely fun, like on the observational account "Dog Fight," which includes a '60s girl group harmony of "bow wow wow" in the chorus, or the Beatles-esque ode to Naoko's favorite treat, "Cotton Candy Clouds." On many of the tracks, the trio combine their typical sunny vibes with some of the crunchier rock muscle found on 2014's Overdrive. Here, the vibe distilled from their rock influences is lighter and more upbeat -- even if it was inspired by Motörhead and Dio -- like on the rollicking "Ace of Spades" speed thrasher "ImI" (their alphabetized version of the devil horn salute, \m/) or the ode to band swag, "Rock 'n' Roll T-Shirt." The ominous "Tasmanian Devil" rocks even harder, with '70s metal riffage and chunky drums reminiscent of Deep Purple or Judas Priest. Hearing the ladies rip it up, it's impossible not to smile. Shonen Knife have still got their edge. Elsewhere, they stick to familiar tropes that fans will enjoy. The band's devotion to their home base of Osaka pops up on the chugging churn of "Calabash," while paeans to food come in the form of the rockabilly ode to the power of horseradish, "Wasabi," and a tribute to the local fruit of Kawano's hometown, the kabosu, or "Green Tangerine." For a band almost four decades into existence, it's refreshing to know that Shonen Knife are still having fun. While Adventure isn't as raw and uninhibited as some of their past work, it continues the enduring legacy of their peppy garage sound with effortless confidence and nostalgic winks to the past. ~ Neil Z. Yeung