Shonen Knife: Three Decades of Cute

by emily dirienzo

They may be well into their forties now, but the gals of Japanese super group Shonen Knife are still as cute as a bug’s ear and can’t stop rockin’.  With yet another album under their well-accessorized belt, the Osaka outfit embarks on a full-fledged North American tour.

Shonen Knife was founded by two sisters,  Naoko and Atsuko Yamano and their long-time friend Michie Nakatani in the early eighties as a counter-response to the infectious J-Pop movement. The trio drew inspiration from rock and new wave forerunners like the Ramones and the Buzzcocks, and inspired a new generation of girls everywhere.  Since their formation in ’81, the group has experienced a revolving door of members, now retaining only one of it’s original players, lead singer and vocalist Naoko Yamano.  Basically, Shonen Knife pulled a Destiny’s Child before Beyonce could even form the word bootylicious.

Over the years Shonen Knife garnered a cult following, mainly by other members of the rapidly growing alternative rock scene of the early nineties.  In 1991 the group won over the heart of Kurt Cobain whom immediately signed the band on as an opening act for Nirvana’s UK tour.  With song titles like “Cookie Day” and “Strawberry Cream Puff”, and the girls’ penchant for matching 60s mod dresses, it’s hard to imagine the legendary front-man getting down to Shonen Knife, but with just one listen to their energetic, straight-from-the-garage sound and Cobain’s fascination becomes clear.

            Folks have declared the death of grunge many times over but Shonen Knife continues to promote the DIY lifestyle that took us by the hands and led us through decades of music and pop culture that never seem to be able to shake their grungy roots. The group continues to tour long after many of their peers have said adios to the scene, and will be making their way to the states this September their US tour.  

The ladies of Shonen Knife back in the day.

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1992 interview with the band and Nirvana

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The group performs live at All Tomorrow’s Parties in the U.K. 2010




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