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Shonen Knife

Shonen Knife and White Mystery at Empty Bottle | Concert preview

Japanese pop-punk heroes join forces with a hometown sibling act.


According to the Cartoon Network, sugar, spice and everything nice, plus a dash of “Chemical X,” turned three perfect little girls into pint-sized cans of whoopass. Like most creation stories, the origin of the Powerpuff Girls is hardly scientific, though a real-life analogue already happens to exist in the form of Shonen Knife.

Armed with guitars and tons of enthusiasm, the sunny Japanese trio has been combating bad vibes with sugar-coated pop-punk for more than 30 years, its bottomless repertoire of two-minute, three-chord, happy-go-lucky bursts sustained by frontwoman Naoko Yamano’s lighthearted sense of imagination. She’s been singing about cats since Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino was in kindergarten.

But don’t let the cartoon-like aesthetic undermine the group’s punk bona fides. After the release of a Ramones tribute album last year, the new Pop Tune continues to hone the group’s trademark sound while still coming off fresh. It’s almost a retrospective, melding influences acquired along the way into new hybrids. “Osaka Rock City” overlays surf licks onto buzzy riffs, “Ghost Train” rides on grungy ’90s guitars, and the title track could easily be the theme to a kids’ show about rock & roll superheroes.

Touring with Shonen Knife are none other than Chicago’s own garage-punk Muppet siblings, White Mystery, whose bouncy and fun tunes are a worthy warm-up, whether you’re a cult fan of the headliner or just want the feeling of being at Chic-a-Go-Go with a cheap buzz.

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