Shonen Knife

Osaka Ramones: Tribute to the Ramones

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What happens when a Japanese female punk-pop trio that has long traded on a certain exuberant amateurism celebrates its 30th anniversary by recording an entire album of Ramones covers? Exactly what you'd expect: faithful (but not exactly slavish) reproductions of songs by the exuberantly amateurish but secretly pop-savvy Queens legends, none of them surprising but all of them tons of entirely predictable fun. The album is barely over 33 minutes long, which is exactly as it should be, and as far as song selections go, it's heavily weighted toward the usual suspects: "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Rock 'n' Roll High School," "Rockaway Beach," "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," "Beat on the Brat," etc. What does emerge a bit more clearly in the Shonen Knife versions than in the originals is the undercurrent of weirdo that always hummed just below the surface of many Ramones songs: when Joey Ramone sang "The KKK Took My Baby Away" and "Beat on the Brat" ("...with a baseball bat") it was always just a bit disturbing, but it was less so coming from someone who had so carefully cultivated an aura of glue-sniffing decadence than it is coming from a trio of women whose image has been built on invocations of strawberries, candy, bananas, and fluffy animals. The end result is a half-hour of good, giddy fun that leaves you with a slightly strange taste in your mouth, and that's probably just right.

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