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May 04, 1994 - Image 11

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1994-05-04

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Pop and Rock and Stuff

y Ted Watts
Imagine, if you will,three Japanese women in
a Mexican restaurant in the middle of Detroit
dancing like it was the '50 s to a redneck-
looking blues band with an older gentleman
named "Crazy Eddie" who is dancing as if he is
in Twin Peaks, which is hardly his fault consid-
ering the kitszchy dead animal/Mexican decor
of the place. Now that you have that image in
yourmind, labelthethreewomen Shonen Knife.
Yes, the Japanesepop-punk trio Shonen Knife
was in town Saturday, April 30 at St. Andrew's
on tour to promote their new album, "Rock
Animals."And whilethey've beenmakingrecords
for about 12 years, most of those on small
independent labels, they had not come to De-
troit until this last week. Their first major label
release, "Let's Knife," was basically a rere-
cording of earlier Shonen Knife songs from
their indie years. The new album is the first
major American release with all new material.
Yet, Shonen Knife is much more popular in
America and Europe than in their home country,
although they try to adapt to their domestic
crowd. "When we play in Japan, about 70
percent of our lyrics are in Japanese. We write
in English and then translate into Japanese,"
says guitarist Naoko Yamano. "English is easier
to remember when we sing, because we are not
thinking about the meaning."
This seems to tie in with some ofthe criticism

of the band as being too vacuous, but Shonen
Knife claims to be deeper than that. "We don't
mind if you take us for a novelty band, but
actually we are very serious about our music,"
explains bassist Michie Nakatani. "If our lyrics
sometimes sound as if they are funny, it is be-
cause we have a good sense of humor. But if you
look at our lyrics deeper, you will see that there
aresome very cynicalpointsofview fromShonen
Both their sense of humor and their serious-
ness come out in talking with them. In response
to what the song "Butterfly Boy" was about,
Nakatani answered: "On tour in Europe, I met a
butterfly boy. The boy had wings, and he was
flying. He had a human head. He was very
handsome. No, really, I was thinking about vio-
lence. You know, sometimes people are not nice
to children. Or a man is not nice to a woman, date
rape and stuff. So the song is an anti violent one."
Still, on the surface Shonen Knife's songs
seem pretty simple, in spite of the stated themes
and the fact that Nakatani professes being influ-
enced greatly by books. "I like John Irving. I
recently read 'Joy Luck Club.' 'Fried Green
Tomatoes' was a very fine book."Many of their
songs are about relationships, and most of the
rest are about everyday things. But there is a
rather large degree of difference between those
themes and the strong entertainer personalities
that come across from them on stage. They are,

nonen nnme are beauiaulbeautiul people. re you.
after all, rock goddesses. comments Yamano. "They are very kind, gentle
The divas have brought the Dentists with Englishmen. We have different musical styles,
them this tour. A quartet of Englishmen in hori- and it's a very good combination."
zontal stripes, they play a harder pop in general The kind, gentle Englishmen took the stage in
than do their headliners, have been around for front of a relatively small crowd, which grew
about the same length of time, and are infinitely considerably as Shonen Knife fans filed in. The
less well known. "We like their songs a lot," See KNIE, Page 14

Daisies ... roses ... happy
You're wading through a thick
swampland. Youstruggle to reach the
fresh air of dry land, but your nostrils
*only inhale the pungent scent of mud
and slop. In the distance,youcan hear
of bees singing Gregorian chants. As
you draw closer to the source of the
sound, you recognize a human-like
voice wailing above the chanting bees.
Now you can distinctly hear the
pounding of drums. But the source of
the sound only to see a three-piece
rock band standing knee-deep in
"Murk," the opener of
Killswitch's "Daisies ... roses ...
happy days" does indeed sound like
it's half-buried in mud. In fact, the
wholerecordis anexperienceofwad-
ing through bass-heavy rock-noise.
This noise has some interesting mo-
ments like on "Tragic" when bass
player Bill Clements plays some damn
fine melodies and on "Slip and Fall"
when Clements funks it up a bit.
TheKalamazoo-based band comes
as close to an original sound as pos-
sible these days. The closest compari-
son would link Clements and drum-
mer Mike Yount to Primus, but Jeff
Clements' guitar is aligned closer to
the Cocteau Twins' buzzing wail.
Throw in some interesting heavy
*metal progressions and you have the
art of Killswitch.
But how much art can you take?
By the end of the album, you are most
likely up toyourneckin swamp muck.

Will you drown or manage to climb
out to dry land? Perhaps Killswitch is
trying too hard to dump slop all over
you dear readers. At least they're
better than Violet Wine.
- Matt Carlson
Judging fromthis album,this Chi-
cago 5-piece would love to be de-
scribed as "industrial," or at least as
having something todo with thegood
ol' Front 242/ KMFDM/Ministry
Wax Trax scene. There is definitely a
fusion of electronics and thrashing,
explosive rock music going on here,
but the problem is that the Wax Trax

sount oad more to do witt pure,
harsh electronic sounds, which were
occasionally augmented by guitars,
while Stabbing Westward's music is
almost the complete opposite.
Still, "Ungod" is an undeniably
powerful effort. The grating guitar
riffs explode and retreat at just the
right moments to create the right feel-
ing of intenstity and the electronic
sounds do help to create a dark atmo-
sphere highly reminiscent of Nine
Inch Nails' "Pretty Hate Machine."
However,ifthere'sone thing Stab-
bing Westward does share with the
industrial music, it's the use of trite,
cheesy, meaningless lyrics. This
would be excusable if it wasn't for
their spreading these lyics out over
three pages of liner notes, but obvi-

ously they seem to think that repeat-
ing the line "And this is what you take
from me" over and over on "Control"
is something that will mean some-
thing incredibly deep to someone.
"Ungod" is a decent effort, but if
you're looking for a revival of the
Wax Trax sound, you should prob-
ably look elsewhere. Stabbing West-
wardisloud,explosiveandharsh, but

Crunt -Andy Dolan
Crunt is the side project of Kat
Simmins from Jon Spencer Blues Ex
See RECORDS, Page 12

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