New releases from Shonen Knife, Des Ark, Girls in Trouble, and Augustus Pablo

Shonen Knife at Amoeba Hollywood (September 2010)

There are some bands that you’ve listened to so much and seen so often that they seem like old friends. Shonen Knife and The Ramones both fit that category for me, and happen to converge in an album that comes out next month. Here’s a preview of that, as well as some newer releases from a label (Lovitt) and a group (Girls in Trouble) with actual friends. As a bonus,  there’s a new collection of music by melodica master Augustus Pablo, who was mentioned quite a bit in the articles on Chinese Jamaicans in reggae that ran in Giant Robot 37.

Shonen KnifeOsaka Ramones
No longer the garage band with a cult following that covered “Rain,” “Luck of the Irish,” Heatwave,” or even “Top of the World” in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Shonen Knife is well-oiled rock ‘n’ roll machine in 2011. Their polish is evident in this faithful collection of Ramones covers, which was recorded to celebrate the band’s thirtieth anniversary. The Osaka trio demonstrates their knowledge of their New York by ending with “Pinhead,” just like a concert, leading up to it with a load of hits and one curveball from Adios Amigos to see if you’re paying attention. While I actually preferred the Ramones covers done in the rawer, rougher, earlier days of Shonen Knife, you can’t expect musicians to regress, and there’s currently The Romanes to serve that purpose. Ultimately, Osaka Ramones is a winning combination for die-hard fans of either band, and I happen to love both. [Good Charamel]

Des ArkDon’t Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker
The album starts innocently enough–not to be confused with innocuously enough. A casual listen suggests that “My Saddle Is Waiting (C’mon Jump On It)” is just another acoustic toe-tapper with breathy vocals, but singer and guitarist Aimee Arote is a lot more complex than that and also more fiery. Song titles like “Bonne Chance Asshole” and “FTW y’all!!!” say it all. She has the class, charm, and chops to sneak into the rotation at Starbucks but sneaks in more than enough subversive ideas, dirty thoughts, and hot post rock riffs to get patrons to strip out of their jogging suits or business casual attire and get busy. [Lovitt]

Girls in TroubleHalf You Half Me
The Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan is no School of Rock, but that’s where Alicia Jo Rabins’ musical project was born. This is her second installment of songs that retell the sordid stories of tested women from the Old Testament and, like the illuminator of a manuscript, she takes the bleakest of situations and goriest of details and turns them into something gorgeous and pause worthy. The first song, “We Are Androgynous,” is pure indie rock gold with Rabin’s melodic voice couched in her own swooning violin and percolating stand-up bass from ICU/Old Time Relijun’s Aaron Hartman. The collection is an absorbing, worthy counterpoint to the better-known, dude-centric Biblical treatments of Metallica and Slayer. [JDub]

Augustus PabloMessage Music
Listening to the digital recordings of the reggae musician whose name is synonymous with the somewhat primitive melodica will be a challenge for most of Augustus Pablo’s old-school fans. But while many of his Jamaican peers were using new music technology to create dancehall, Pablo remained true. Mournful, unhurried, and deep, his playing is more condusive for contemplation than dancing–perhaps a little of both–and is capable of warming the coldest of drum machine beats. Most telling is the reworking of “Java,” which he originally recorded with Clive Chin. It replaces the smoky, jazzy interplay of world-class musicians with perfectly stitched beats, but the melodica smoothens it all out and adds a feeling of timelessness and soul. [Pressure Sounds]