Shonen Knife -‘Osaka Ramones- A Tribute To The Ramones’ (Tomato Head/Damnably)
Having had a busy year to mark their thirtieth Anniversary, cool-as-anything Japanese three-piece Shonen Knife have toured this year in support of their excellent album Free Time…and now they give us another album, this time a tribute to their heroes The Ramones.
The Ramones often held a fascination for indie-pop acts (see Helen Love, pretty much anyone involved with the Edinburgh branch of the c86-scene -AGARR prefix on Avalanche Records stood for As Good As Ramones Records). Much of this was to do with the sheer energy and fun of their music. Most of the thirten tracks on display in their original form should be familiar to anyone who has ever heard The Ramones (I’m really hoping that’s most of you).
So What we get is their take on numbers like ‘Blitzkreig Bop’ (surely Exhibit A in ‘Debut singles should sound like a manifesto’ arguments), ‘Beat On The Brat’ and ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,’ amongst others. On their UK tour this year the band played their encores as the Osaka Ramones -and in Edinburgh we got ‘Sheena’ ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ and ‘Blitzkreig…’ and excellent fun it was too. They are delivered in pretty much the same style throughout, without deviating drastically -and as the Ramones made an art-form of the ‘three chords good, four chords Jazz’ schtick, they don’t change much here.
Of course, The Ramones were very much a product of 1970s New York; ‘Chinese Rock’ is about scoring heroin. It’s not like Vanessa Paradis completely misinterpreting The Velvets’ ‘Waiting For The Man’ (about scoring heroin in Harlem ten years previously) but it seems a little strange on a song like this to be quite so cutesy, because it doesn’t come across as subversive. And the utter tragedy of ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ isn’t quite repeated in their reading. It is better than The Ordinary Boys’ version (quelle surprise), however.
No matter. Covers albums can be difficult things; one act doing an entire album of another’s songs could fall flat on its’ face.
This doesn’t. Ready for some fun? Gabba Gabba Hey…Let’s Go!’
Osaka Ramones- A Tribute To The Ramones is out now on Tomato Head/Damnably.