Shonen KnifeZA!/Community Chest

The Astor Lounge

Wednesday, January 22, 2015

Local lads Community Chest did a good job of warming up those eager enough to brave a Wednesday night out in Perth at The Astor Lounge – fast becoming the hippest place for boutique cult acts to play – but little could prepare anyone for the Spanish duo ZA!

A bewildering mixture of prog freakouts, jazzy noodling and art-noise rock, their Latin boisterousness may not be everyone’s cup of sangria, but their sheer manic enthusiasm kept most of the crowd riveted – jaw-droppingly so. Their set eschews traditional concepts of melody and song structure, instead piling solos on solos – guitars, drums, trombone, keys and robotic-treated vocals: pretty impressive for a duo.

The only song title we grasped was Green Gazelle, but since that song was layered with submarine sonar sounds… well, I may have misheard. At times it’s more of a ‘happening’ than a gig, at times it’s a complete aural acid trip. Either way it’s a thoroughly enjoyable headfuck the likes of which we rarely see nowadays.

After the awesomely trippy mind-rape of ZA!, Shonen Knife are like a soothing spa bath for the ears: simple poppy punk rock full of ‘70s rock riffs. Lyrically the girls are a blast, singing about Banana Chips, Bad Luck Songs, being a cat (I Am A Cat), green tea (I Like Green Tea), shopping (I Like Shopping) and ramen noodles (Ramen Rock). It’s not exactly U2, but it is heaps of fun.

Band leader, guitarist and most-of-the-time lead singer (bassist Ritsuko Taneda and drummer Emi Morimoto both sing a couple of tunes each) Naoko Yamano has the supreme confidence and professionalism that comes with doing this for 30 years and has trained her newer band members well. (It also horrendously beggars belief that she is 54, without a hint of a wrinkle on her face!) Costumed like a ‘60s girl group and throwing rock shapes like a ‘70s rock band, Shonen Knife remain unique, and though some of their moves and content might be cheesy in the hands of others, this pocket-sized Osaka trio are the real deal.

The band run through ESP, Riding On The Rocket and Get The Wow, and there’s something innately entertaining about these super-simplistic songs, melodies, riffs and lyrics. It’s a primal thing that’s more ‘60s pop than ‘80s or ‘90s punk and the crowd love them for it, bopping and swaying with smiles as broad as can be.

Yamano asks for requests when Shonen Knife return to the stage for an encore, playing rock/paper/scissors with bassist Taneda to choose their last track then blasting through the short sharp super-bouncy shock of The Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated, then hitting the signing table to the delight of everyone in attendance.