I’ve probably seen Shonen Knife (Wikipedia if you don’t read Japanese) more than any other currently-performing rock band. When they get on stage you can count on a couple of hours of pure high-energy high-melody high-rhythm hard-rockin’ fun, and you just can’t have too much of that. Riding the Rocket is just one of a couple of dozen totally great as-good-as-Rock-gets tunes.
Just the facts: Shonen Knife were originally three young Japanese women from Osaka, two of them sisters. They’ve switched instruments and members and have, over the years, become a rotating planetary system around Naoko Yamano, who provides lead guitar and vocals and a lot of songwriting. Shonen Knife songs are short, loud, melodious and completely incomprehensible. They are also usually extremely well-recorded, I originally ran across them in the audiophile press. It helps that Naoko has fabulous guitar sound and has never, over the years, failed to hire a drummer who apparently eats high explosives for breakfast.
Did I say incomprehensible? They sing in both Japanese and English but you can’t understand either; they have adorably-cute Japanese accents but even if you can listen through that, it’s still pretty hard to understand. Consider our song of the day: Riding on the rocket / I wanna go to Pluto / Space foods are marshmallows, / asparagus, ice cream, ooh / Blue eyed kitty cat said / “Please let me go with you”.
BTW, the food theme is part of the story too; their (amusing and bilingual) blog is very food-centric.
I know that buying “records” or “albums” is so passé these days, but if you were going to do such a thing, there are very few things that will juice up your music collection than a collection of Shonen Knife tunes. I have their greatest-hits collection Let’s Knife; another good option Burning Farm, whose title track is explosively brilliant and somewhat based on Land of a Thousand Dances, which was a big hit for Wilson Pickett. But even more important, go visit the Live page on their Web site; they tour the Anglo-sphere almost every year (in fact I see they’re in Britain next month), and go see them! I guarantee you’ll walk away with a big smile. Also, take your camera, I have loads of fun shooting them.
Links · Spotify playlist. Well, I wrote all this only to discover that you can’t get Riding on the Rocket from either iTunes or Amazon. So, I’m going to substitute some other tunes: Twist Barbie on Amazon, Explosion! on iTunes, Calabash on Spotify. Aaaand, here’s live video of Riding On The Rocket.