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Shonen Knife “Osaka Ramones”

by Shawn Despres

Shonen Knife, Japan’s best-known alternative-rock band, are celebrating their 30th birthday. In honor of this occasion, the influential Osaka trio have a number of anniversary releases planned, the first being “Osaka Ramones,” a tribute disc to the iconic American punk group the Ramones.

The album was recorded in Osaka and New York and co-produced by Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac. The Japanese cover art (top picture) pays homage to the classic 1977 Ramones LP “Rocket to Russia,” while the international version is a take on 1978′s equally revered “Road to Ruin.”

“Osaka Ramones” fittingly starts with the Ramones’ debut single, “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Played with Shonen Knife’s trademark power-pop gusto, their spin is more polished than the original but still retains the cut’s energetic edge. It’s pretty hard not to want to excitedly shout along as all three women belt out the track’s universally adored “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” opening lyrics. Naoko Yamano’s vocals and the band’s melodic, cleaner sound work really well on “She’s the One,” adding a much stronger doo-wop feel to the song.

The act’s playful pop-punk renditions of hits such as “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,” “Rockaway Beach” and “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” are all catchy, fun listens that longtime Shonen Knife followers and casual fans will enjoy. Expect a sea of pumping fists and cheers from both groups of supporters if Yamano breaks out Johnny Ramone’s “Gabba gabba we accept you/we accept you/one of us” rallying cry from “Osaka Ramones” closer “Pinhead” during Shonen Knife’s Fuji Rock performance.

Shonen Knife play Apollo Theater in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, on July 16 (6:30 p.m., ¥3,000 in adv. [052] 936-6041); Shindaita Fever in Tokyo on July 17 (6 p.m., ¥3,000 in adv., [03] 3444-6751); and the White Stage at the Fuji Rock Festival in Naeba, Niigata Prefecture, on July 30 (11:30 a.m., ticket prices vary). For more information, visit www.shonenknife.net.