MFNW: Shonen Knife

I think there's a great comic book to be made about Shonen Knife. The story would start in an Osaka office building in 1981, where twenty-somethings Michie Nakatani, Atsuko Yamano, and Naoko Yamano decided to start a band as an antidote to their dull clerkships. They started a power-chord pop band, but kept it mostly secret from their family and co-workers until 1982, when they played their first show and released their first album on cassette-only. Their American cross-over first really took hold when they were included on a 1986 Sub Pop compilation, and Olympia's K Records released a new version of their debut album Burning Farm to underground and alternative rock fans in the US. The major-label pique was with Capitol, with one of their best-known albums, Let's Knife, were on MTV rotation, and toured with Nirvana right before their release of Nevermind (Kurt Cobain said seeing Shonen Knife live transformed him "into a hysterical nine-year-old girl at a Beatles concert.")

Spanning pop, twee, and punk, they've outlasted their contemporaries and have left a legacy of several albums, a tribute album featuring Sonic Youth, and one kick-ass dental hygiene commercial . And you have to wonder if Kill Bill would have been the same had the Shonen Knife-influenced 5, 6, 7, 8's hadn't been around! Through the years, they've been through band member deaths, switch-ups, and patronizing reviews (seriously, did anyone ever call the Ramones "cute"?), but their pop packs just as much power today as always. Their current line-up is Naoko Yamano (guitar, vocals), Ritsuko Taneda (bass, vocals) and Emi Morimoto (drums). They're currently touring the United States and Portlanders can see them tonight at Mississippi Studios as part of Musicfest Northwest!

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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4 Comments Have Been Posted


I saw Shonen Knife perform last year and they were SO GOOD. I wish I were able to see them tonight!

<b>Ashley McAllister, Library Coordinator</b>
<a href="/comments-policy">Did someone say <em>Comments Policy</em>?</a>

I LOVE them!!

I LOVE them!!

Excellent well researched

Excellent well researched write up.
Saw them in Seattle and Portland on this tour and they really pack a wallop live. Highly recommended.

Shonen Knife

I've been listening to Shonen Knife since I was like 6 & I still love it! I like it when songs are so simple...about things that everyone loves, like hot chocolate! I love that Kurt Cobain quote.

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