Sonic Reducer: Micro Reviews Of Shonen Knife, Erik Friedlander And Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks

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When he first heard that Japan’s Shonen Knife was recording a tribute to the Ramones, an old pal said, “When have they not?” Thirty years ago in the wake of hardcore punk, Shonen Knife was among the first to revive the Ramones’ style—a style of which Johnny Ramone once commented “Punk? We just thought we were playing bubblegum.” That’s completely evident here. “Rockaway Beach” shows its AM radio roots while the toughness of “We Want the Airwaves” is lost in translation. And “Chinese Rock” sung in frontwoman Naoko Yamano’s sweet voice? Heroin addiction never sounded so cute. (CA)

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks Mirror Traffic (Matador)

On its fifth album, Portland-based Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks follows a formula similar to that of the other four releases. Half of the tracks are jangly pop songs, half are sleepy guitar jams, all are peppered with Malkmus’ trademark heavy melodies and playful lyrics. Mirror Traffic , though, is a bit more glossy-sounding due, in all likelihood, to Beck’s production magic (the band’s other albums were self-produced). Despite this, and despite songs about flamboyant ’20s wrestlers, tigers, blow jobs and self-righteous 28-year-olds, I still favor Pig Lib the most. (JCC)

Erik Friedlander Bonebridge (SkipStone Records)

Backed by guitar, bass and drums, Erik Friedlander continues his reimagining of the cello as a guitar-like jazz instrument, strumming, picking and plucking the strings and bending notes with remarkable facility. Though impressive, this approach denies the instrument its full expressive range, which becomes undeniably clear as soon as Friedlander picks up the bow. The tasty original compositions range from the eerie, ethereal “Caribou Narrows” to the front-porch blues of “Low Country Cupola.” The relaxed country-jazz aesthetic of guitarist Doug Wamble, who knows the blues like you know the back of your own hand, contributes to the album’s pleasures. (MM)

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