Sound — 8
Shonen Knife is often compared to the Ramones, but they're capable of a lot more diversity and texture in their compositions, even if the Ramones influence is pretty clear. The fact that they barely have a grasp on the English language, and that the majority of their songs are about animals and food, make them a breath of fresh air in a sea of musicians who take themselves way too seriously. Most of the songs here are re-recorded versions of older songs, but this album shows a remarkable improvement in musicianship that benefits from the stronger production. Although it's more pop than punk, there are power chords galore to satisfy the rocker in you, and rarely is there a song without an interesting hook or break or syncopation to keep things interesting. The guitars are pretty beefy, too. There are references to all sorts of music history - Motown in "Burning Farm", metal on "Antonio Baka Guy", "Black Bass" is reminiscent of The Moody Blues, even. All in all, there's something for everyone, unless you're one of the ones who takes things too seriously. They aren't rewriting the riff book, but they aren't afraid to sound like themselves or, more importantly, to flat out rock.
Lyrics — 9
Although the riffs are creative and often brilliant, it's the lyrics that will wiggle into your brain and stay there, even though they sound like they could have been written by a 3rd grader. Hearing Naoko Yamano sing with such excitement about jelly beans, riding bicycles, and insect-collecting friends is like a ray of candy coated sunshine reflected from a unicorns silver horn. In "Bear Up Bison", the ecology song, she sings "He has the right to live, though he's I'll shaped! He's on the way to/ Extinction/ We only want what's best for him!" Trust me, it's much funnier when you hear it. The fore-mentioned "Black Bass" must be heard to be believed, making catching a fish sound like a profound spiritual experience. Hilarious. And once you hear "Flying Jelly Attack", you'll never get it out of your head. For gals with a VERY slippery grasp of English, they seem to always come up with a perfect lyric.
Overall Impression — 8
They certainly don't have the out-of-control fury of their Japanese brothers Guitar Wolf, but they're a lot more rocking than any J-Pop. There isn't a bad song on the album. "Twist Barbie" is the most obviously Ramones influenced, and actually one of the least impressive. When they play stereotypical Chinese music in "Ah, Singapore", you get the feeling that even the Chinese couldn't be offended. It's just a sincere desire to capture the mood of the place, and it succeeds like crazy. That's the key. There's nothing artificial about the band, in their playing, lyrics, or image. Just three girls who always seem to be as surprised as they are ecstatic to be making records. Their enthusiasm is contagious. So is this album. Check it out.