It may well be that here in the West, we've all grown so resigned to living in a decadent society that we've just gone numb. But hopefully we still retain a vestigial third ear that enables us to hear the sounds of genuine, unalloyed joy--sounds we're no longer so good at producing ourselves, but that we're still capable of responding to. This could explain Shonen Knife's ability to appeal even to hardened noiseheads like Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore (who guests on their new album Rock Animals) or the tough-looking guy standing in front of me in the audience at their Metro show last December who started out scowling but eventually took to screaming gleefully at the band: "I love you, I love you, I love you!" Sure, they're cute, but there's a lot more to it than that: these three strong, courageous women from Osaka couple the tuneful roar of the Ramones with an artless daring worthy of Jonathan Richman, and their awkwardly catchy songs--sung in charmingly fractured English, about calico cats and mushrooms and tomatoes and butterflies--all communicate a simple delighted amazement at the fact that the universe even exists. To call this music "life-affirming" would be an understatement: Naoko Yamano's guitar screams with distortion, but it's a scream of happiness, not pain. Just by contrast, it makes you realize the degree to which most modern-day rock music has become preoccupied with anger and alienation. Shonen Knife rocks the house with a winning exuberance that's downright Beatlesque--how many rock bands currently active in the West (or anywhere) could pull that off without seeming hackneyed or ironic? Friday, 7:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Yuu Kamimaki.