Far East far out at sharp end of Japanese punk

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Few bands can beat Shonen Knife when it comes to entertainment. The Japanese pop punk repertoire spans 32 years and includes tracks such as I Am a Cat, SPAM, Miracles From Burning Farm and Twist Barbie.

The accompanied videos reflect the titles - the screen is drenched in pastiches of cut-out images, saturated colours and smiley faces. Watching Shonen Knife’s repertoire on You Tube could crack even the most miserable of characters.

The band’s sound is the result of years of absorbing the thick hooks of British rock from the 70s, as frontwoman Naoko Naoko explains.

“The punk pop we play is influenced by British bands from the 70s such as Black Sabbath and Motorhead. I love their hard rock style but I love writing ballads in that style.”

Once bands like Buzzcocks and XTC hit the airwaves, Shonen Knife’s punky rock pop aesthetic was born.

“Bands like the Ramones, XTC, the Buzzcocks and other New Wave acts started to influence me as well.”

It’s not surprising then, that cities like Manchester and London feel like Naoko’s spiritual home.

“There is a punk scene in Japan but it is underground as mainstream music is J Pop.”

So entrenched in punk were Shonen Knife that the band supported Nirvana on their Nevermind tour.

“We opened for Nirvana on their British tour. They were very good and I remember Kurt Cobain wanted to cover my song, Twist Barbie. He said our music was nice.”

One source quotes Cobain - on having seen Shonen Knife - as saying: “When I finally got to see [Shonen Knife] live, I was transformed into a hysterical nine-year-old girl at a Beatles concert.”

Nirvana as a band were also a pleasant surprise. “Before we toured with them I feared them a bit - they looked so wild. But they were very kind and helped us carry equipment. That’s the good thing about being in an all-female band – lots of bands help you carry equipment.”

But Shonen Knife’s milestones go beyond Nirvana. The band have also supported The Breeders, played at Lollapalooza, recorded sessions for John Peel and even appeared on MTV’s Beavis and Butthead.

The band’s recent accolades are just as impressive. In 2010 they played at the Matt Groening-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties and extensively toured the UK, Europe, North America, China and Taiwan.

The band had their 30th birthday in 2011 and marked the event with the release of not one, but two albums - Free Time and Osaka Ramones.

More recently the band has moved towards a poppier sound and in 2012 Shonen Knife released their 18th studio album, Pop Tune. “We wanted to write pop songs,” says Naoko. “We we really love this band called Pilot, from Edinburgh and wanted to make music like them.”

n Shonen Knife play September 6 at Queens Social Club.