More than 25 years into a singularly surreal career that's seen it evolve from a trio of Osaka office workers to an indie-rock avatar, Japan's Shonen Knife shows no signs of slowing down. The group just released its 14th studio album, Fun! Fun! Fun!, and is now in the middle of its umpteenth U.S. tour. "Nick Lowe, Costello, Beatles/Redd Kross, Ramones, Buzzcocks/Shonen Knife is a cult band!" singer-guitarist Naoko Yamano chirped on "Shonen Knife" — the opening track on 712, the 1991 album that served as an intro to most stateside music fans. It clearly spelled out the group's influences and cheerfully acknowledged its faint prospects for mainstream success. Not that it hasn't been embraced by the underground and championed by the influential. Sonic Youth — taken by the band's sweetly punky, spunky power pop — headlined a 1989 Shonen Knife tribute album, Every Band Has a Shonen Knife Who Loves Them. And Kurt Cobain — a huge fan, who particularly loved Yamano's bizarre lyrics about bugs, banana fish, jelly beans, ice cream, and chocolate bars (almost anything sugary, really) — took the band on the road with Nirvana in 1991.
Like the four misfits it sang about in "Ramones Forever," Shonen Knife hasn't altered its formula over the years. Nor has the group called it quits, despite several lineup changes. Bassist Michie Nakatani left in 1999, and drummer-turned-bassist Atsuko Yamano (Naoko's sister) retired last year. But she's back on board for this tour, along with drummer Etsuko Nakanishi, who's been playing with the group since 2003. Here's your chance to pogo to three-chord ditties about Froot Loops, rockets, and Barbie dolls.