Irony is not a concept usually shared by international cultures. Case in point: cats.
The Western (internet) world shows its adoration for felines by churning out pointless LOLcat YouTube video after LOLcat YouTube video, gilding this love with a patina of wink-wink jokeyness, as if to say, "Sure, we obsess over and anthropomorphize these cute beasts that don't do very much, but since we're making a gag out of it, it's OK to openly enjoy it. This is how we've earned our pass."
Japan's Shonen Knife, on the other hand, has willingly dedicated an entire song to the same animals while keeping a straight face — a move that would definitely earn mockery if they were an American band. The 31-year-old Pop-Punk trio's "I Am a Cat" off 1993's Let's Knife is an autumnal, simple tune where the narrator steps into an astral "timeless zone" and finds a cat's whiskers and ears. After attaching them to herself, she observes, "In a moment, I become a sweet little cat/And I dance on a flying saucer."
It's silly and a bit dumb, of course, but the total absence of irony —especially since this comes from an underground Rock outfit — is a true gift. Shonen Knife has long championed frivolous music about frivolous subjects, and the trio’s childlike earnestness yields great charm.
With that being said, it's somewhat surprising that Kurt Cobain of all folks supported Shonen; but, hey, even the guy who wrote "Rape Me" needed some relief from pain and aggression, too (see: heroin addiction).
Shonen Knife's tour behind its new album, Pop Tune, comes to the Ballroom space inside the Taft Theatre downtown tonight. Showtime is 8:30 p.m.; doors open at 7:30 p.m. Opening the show is red-headed sibling rockers White Mystery (from Chicago) and Cincinnati greats The Harlequins. Tickets are $13.
Here's the video for the title track off of Shonen Knife's new LP.