Most North American fans were introduced to the ladies of Shonen Knife via the cryptically titled 712 (1991). They even toured the effort, opening up for a then-unknown Nirvana. Actually, the numeric insignia was derived by taking a contraction of seven (nana), one (ichi), and two (futatu) to create the "na-i-fu," the Japanese word for knife. The material immediately unleashes the band's tongue-in-cheek sincerity and prankster attitude on "Shonen Knife," which commences with the herald "Good morning, Shonen Knife freaks..." and dives into a repetitive four-on-the-floor sample of E.L.O.'s "Don't Bring Me Down." The following off-kilter Dadaist rap hails the arrival of this, their latest record, before reeling off a litany of their favorite musicians: "Nick Lowe, Costello, Beatles/Redd Kross, Ramones, Buzzcocks," then proudly proclaiming "Shonen Knife is a cult band!" Couched within the Gen X anthem and garage façade of "Lazybone" is the band's understated penchant for catchy choruses and power pop melodies. They are perfectly matched to guest Atsushi Shibata's forceful guitar solo. Among the other social observations are an extolling of weight loss on "Diet Run," a surreal ballad to a breakfast cereal during "Fruit Loop Dreams," as well as paeans to White Flag and Redd Kross. The latter were enthusiasts of the band, giving them positive feedback in the press. The cover of the Beatles' "Rain" sticks pretty close to the original, with guest drummer Victor Indrizzo (drums) going so far as to replicating Ringo Starr's drum fills beat-for-beat.
Even more striking is their take on John Lennon's "The Luck of the Irish" featuring Redd Kross's Jeff McDonald on lead vocals that nail Lennon's weary inflections. 712 is a recommended starting point for those wishing to indulge themselves in some whimsical and thoroughly unpretentious rock & roll.