Burning Farm, Yama-No Attchan, Pretty Little Baka Guy, 712
One of the greatest and most underrated bands of the 1980s and 1990s was Shonen Knife, the Japanese pop-punk group who took the ideas behind the B-52s and the Ramones and gave it a distinctive coating of wasabi. Their first four albums, which originally made their way to the United States via cassette, have finally been reissued. They exhibit just exactly why this band was so beloved in its prime.
"Twist Barbie," from Burning Farm is a direct cop from the Ramones, but when a song about Barbie dolls concludes with "Twist Barbie, you're a sexy girl," it's hard to be mad at them. "Burning Farm" itself is a creation that had never even been imagined by any American band: the chorus of Wilson Pickett's "Land of 1000 Dances" mixed with Sonic Youth and Yoko Ono.
As Shonen Knife matured and improved as a band, their ideas got even more wild. "Flying Jelly Attack" (from Yama-No Attchan) is a commercial for some Japanese candy as if penned by the Sex Pistols. "Making Plans for Bison" is the only song in the history of music that describes the near-extinction of a species and makes it sound like fun.
In the early 1990s, Shonen Knife was "discovered" by Stateside record labels and celebrities such as Kurt Cobain. Their American albums are much more polished and cutesy, but it's the pure punk rawness of these albums which made them legends.
While bands such as Cibo Matto and, lately, Asobi Seksu, have attempted to mine the same aesthetic, nothing will ever compare to the sheer exuberance and sugarcoated pop of these four historic albums. Mix and match; you can't go wrong with any of them. This is pure pop for now people, 20 years after it was created originally.