SHONEN KNIFE – YAMA-NO ATTCHAN
Released May 1984 in Japan* – 31-32 years ago
*I’m not sure what month it was released in the US, but recording started in February of 1984.
Shonen Knife’s sophomore release, recorded almost entirely in Japanese, combines early punk alá The Ramones and a 60s-styled Phil Spector girl group sound with an innocent, twee vibe that sounds as fresh today as it did in 1984. Fun and quirky, much of the album plays like a blueprint for indie pop trends of the 90s through today.
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4pm M-F on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4pm Kris stops by KXCI’s studio to give us insight on this classic album at 91.3FM and kxci.org.
Shonen Knife is an all-female Japanese twee punk band formed in Osaka in 1981. They were heavily influenced by early punk rock bands, such as The Ramones and the Buzzcocks, 1960s Phil Spector-esque girl groups and The Beach Boys. The trio crafts stripped-down songs with simplistic lyrics sung both in Japanese and English. Despite their pop-oriented vibe, the trio maintains a distinctly underground garage rock sound rooted in sparse, edgy instrumentation and a DIY aesthetic. Over the course of their long career, they have earned a worldwide cult following.
Consisting of sisters Naoko Yamano (guitar, vox) and Atsuko Yamano (durms), and their friend Michie Nakatani (bass), Shonen Knife was something of an anomaly initially as all-female bands in 1981 were very scarce, particularly in Japan. Along with the American hard-rock/punk group The Runaways and new wave band The Go-Gos, and the British punk/post-punk acts, The Slits and The Raincoats, they represent one of the earliest all-female bands in popular music.
Unlike many punk bands, the trio emphasized positivity using catchy, upbeat melodies underneath quirky, carefree lyrics that often focused on animals and sweets. The band described their music as, “oo-oo-ultra-eccentric-super-cult-punk-pop.”
Recording for Yama-no Attchan started on February 19, 1984, and finished in April of 1984. It was released in Japan in May of 1984. Production credit goes to the band itself and Taku Ishii.
Originally released on Zero records in Japan, Yama-no Attchan was originally only available in the US as an import. It was named loosely after drummer Atsuko Yamano (translated as “Yamano of the Mountain”).
Shonen Knife didn’t start seeing international acclaim until after this release. In late 1986 they were featured on a Sub Pop compilation. Soon there after they received attention from John Peel of the BBC.
Many late 80s/early 90s alternative rock bands, including Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Red Cross, cite Shonen Knife as an influence. Indeed, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana is quoted as saying, “When I finally got to see (Shonen Knife) live, I was transformed into a hysterical nine-year-old girl at a Beatles concert.”
Shonen Knife performed with several seminal alternative bands including, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and Red Cross. They were asked to tour as main support for Nivana on their Nevermind tour. When Shonen Knife was asked to tour with Nivana, the trio didn’t know Nirvana.
Shonen Knife occasionally perform as a Ramones tribute band under the name The Osaka Ramones.
In the late 1990s, Atsuko Yamano and Michie Nakatani dropped out of the band. Several members have filled in on bass and drums over the year, but to this day vocals and lead guitar have always been Naoko Yamano.
The band continues to foster a cult following and are still revered by many other musicians. They have released twenty albums to date, and tour frequently. Their most recent show in Tucson was at The Flycatcher in October, 2014. They have also played at Club Congress and at The Flycatcher (when named Plush) several times.