Shonen Knife/The Lovely Eggs/Islet - Buffalo Bar, Cardiff
Dreaded ‘technical difficulties’ mean that tonight’s show starts about 30 minutes later than scheduled. This is a bit of a blow for those wanting to catch Paxman’s latest witticisms on Newsnight but it is a stroke of luck for Islet who get to play in front of a few dozen more people who’d have otherwise missed their tribal take on indie rock.
As proven by The Boredoms, you just can’t have too many drummers in a band and the mesmerizing rhythmic assault is impressive stuff. Great, but not sure how you’d capture it on record though as a perplexed passing punter said to me.
The Lovely Eggs promise to be something a bit different. Before they play a note it is clear that they have broken the mould as they affix a small bicycle basket, resplendent with an array of pound shop bells and horns to the drumkit.
I’ve been secretly swooning over their fantastic debut album for the past month or so now and so it is gratifying to find that they really are as off-kilter as they appear on record – what other band would sell you hand-stitched felt heart badges or, get this, hand-made woolen dolls of the band members? The band consist of Mancunian husband and wife partnership Holly (guitar and vocals) and David (drums, ukelele and bicycle accoutrements) who’ve created a semi-mythical world where everyday reality is blended with childlike fantasy, a world in which they spend considerable time debating the social niceties of what to prepare when Mices drop in for tea. Cheese is the rather obvious conclusion to that dilemma. David, resembling a disheveled Clint Boon, is happy to remain largely in the shadows while Holly relishes her role of frontwoman as she stamps about the stage in a state of perpetual wide-eyed wonder. If you were fruit is a particular highlight, the tale of citrus based comfort being preceded by a scientific treatise into which is the sweetest type of sweet pepper. The answer, food fans, is the one with four bumps which, as Holly gleefully notes, is the female one. Oh the Stars is an odd sort of mantra based nursery rhyme version of sat nav, underpinned by David’s masterful ukelele strumming. All this might lead you to think that The Lovely Eggs are too saccharine sweet, cutesy-pie and twee for an urban sophisticate such as yourself but you’d be wrong and, hey, there is a dark side to them too as we find out during final song Have you ever heard a digital accordion? which is a disarmingly perfect indie-pop song which concludes that if you haven’t heard a digital accordion then you’ll probably burn in hell. So, in summary, The Lovely Eggs are a great band but you really have to question the basis of their moral philosophy.
There’s a danger that the infectious joy of The Lovely Eggs may render Shonen Knife an anticlimax but such fears are unfounded as the band, in matching Mondrian inspired dresses, bound onto the stage like The Runaways meet The Ramones.
A million miles away from the twee, English charm of The Lovely Eggs, Shonen Knife are all about ROCK. Fists in the air and choreographed headbanging are the order of the day and the crowd lap it up. Things have certainly changed since the last time I saw the band back in 1992 (Yes, I am that old) when they were far more prim and proper; time has clearly unleashed the inner Motley Crue of the band and it suits them well. Rock posturing aside there’s still a delicious innocence which underpins Shonen Knife which is remarkable for a band that have, in one form or another, been performing for almost 30 years. Yes, you can criticise them in that all the songs sound the same but that would miss the point spectacularly. It is a rainy, midweek night in Cardiff, South Wales and yet here in this little attic venue there are a hundred or so people punching the air in rabid delight for the no frills rock of 3 girls from Osaka. What could be more perfect than that? And, good news from the Beeb – you didn’t miss Paxman as it was a Gavin Esler night. Happy Days.