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THE SOUNDTRACK TO MY TRAVELS: NAOKO YAMANO

Guitarist, vocalist and Ramones super-fan Naoko Yamano formed the all-female rock trio Shonen Knife in Osaka, Japan, in 1981.

Since then, the band has released a whopping 19 studio albums, including its latest, Adventure. Their sound—bright, pogo-ing DIY guitar pop with roots in punk and hard rock—has earned them a devoted global following, including high-profile fans such as the late, great Kurt Cobain, who invited the trio to open for Nirvana’s ’91 UK tour. Here are 10 tunes that have colored Yamano’s travels, from Scottish pop rock and Brummie metal to American prog and obscure Japanese post-punk

  • 1-january_cover
    ‘January’—Pilot

    I knew Pilot in the ’70s by name only. I spent a long time thinking they were a hard rock band, but, in actual fact, they made very sweet pop music. I’m not sure how their music found its way into my life, but I starting listening to them just after the millennium. I researched the band and discovered they were from Scotland, and that their main member—David Paton, who sings lead on ‘January’—was a member of the Bay City Rollers. Their melody lines are fantastic, and the vocals are so sweet. I always feel happy when I listen to this band.

  • 2-british-steel_cover
    'British Steel'—Judas Priest

    I didn’t really start listening to Judas Priest until about 10 years ago. I discovered them in high school, but I liked punk and New Wave at the time—I thought of hard rock as being out of fashion. I attended one of their shows a few years back and was surprised to see that they had a huge, shiny motorcycle on stage with them! Rob [Halford’s] roar and the band’s beautiful twin guitar solos always fill me with energy.

  • 3-fast-cars_cover
    ‘Fast Cars’—Buzzcocks

    The Buzzcocks are another band I fell in love with during high school. I liked them for their speedy drum lines and Pete Shelley’s weak [nasal] vocals. They’re a punk band, but their melodies are very pop. They’re one of my favorite ’80s bands, along with the Ramones.

  • 4-traffic_cover
    ‘Traffic’—Convex Level

    Convex Level are from Osaka and formed about 30 years ago. We played with them a few years ago in Tokyo. Their music is quite unique; it reminds me of XTC or Wire in some ways. I don’t pay a lot of attention to mainstream music in Japan but there are plenty of great bands making music on the underground scene here, including Convex Level.

  • 5-heaven-and-hell_cover
    ‘Heaven and Hell’—Black Sabbath

    I like Ozzy Osbourne-fronted Black Sabbath, but I have a lot of love and appreciation for the music they made when Ronnie James Dio was fronting the band too. His vocals are big and brave on this song and the album of the same name. I enjoy British hard rock from the ’70s a lot, partly because it usually has a lot of pop melodies.

  • 6-advaitic-songs_cover
    'Advaitic Songs'—OM

    OM are an experimental psychedelic rock band from California. Our tour manager put this record on one day and the sound had an instant effect on me. Some might consider this music a bit too heavy to play on a tour bus, but when we were in North America last year I listened to this in the van all the time. I’ve been listening to Sleep—a doomy, stoner rock band from San Jose, California—for a few years now, and recently discovered that Sleep and OM share some of the same members. I can’t understand the lyrics, but I can feel the music.

  • 7-clockwork-angels_cover
    ‘Clockwork Angels’—Rush

    Rush are a Canadian rock band that formed in 1968. They’re so cool! Their rhythms, sound, vocals—everything they do is wonderful. A lot of their music is complex, and very technical. Their lyrics are often inspired by sci-fi, fantasy and philosophy. I can slip into other worlds when I listen to their songs.

  • 8-dont-look-back_cover
    ‘Don’t Look Back’—Boston

    This song is a lovely example of [Boston frontman] Tom Scholz’s clear, beautiful vocals. I also really enjoy the band’s unique guitar sound. Sometimes I sing Boston at karaoke. I don’t always understand English lyrics when I listen to the music alone, but I get to decipher the meaning of the songs a little when I see them spelled out on the karaoke monitor.

  • 9-researching-the-blue_cover
    'Researching the Blues'—Redd Kross

    In the ’80s, our US label guy was friends with this band. They were an alternative rock act from California who’d started out as punks. I was introduced to them when I went there in the ’80s and attended one of their shows. Their stage performance was great. I was surprised to discover they were fans of Shonen Knife, and that they’d named a song after us. It’s a really cool hard rock tune. I was so pleased that I returned the compliment, and wrote a song named after them. Their music always reminds me of the warm, sunny weather in LA.

  • 10-get-up-dont-fight-it_cover
    ‘Get Up! (Don’t Fight It)’—The Datsuns

    The Datsuns are a hard rock band from New Zealand. I like their music because it’s heavily influenced by ’70s-style guitar riffs. We toured in Australia and New Zealand in January last year. It was the first time I’d been to cities that weren’t Auckland. This song makes me think of the beautiful scenery we saw there; the day after the show, we went to the beach and the ocean was so blue and beautiful. When we visited Christchurch, I was surprised to see several vacant lots and damaged buildings. The city was still recovering from the [6.3 magnitude] earthquake that happened there five years ago. I hope the city manages to revive itself soon.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
Charlotte Richardson Andrews (@_choobacca)

Charlotte Richardson Andrews is a freelance journalist based in London. She writes about music, pop culture and social politics for The Guardian, DIVA, NME, Factor and Sight & Sound. Follow her on Instagram @chooniverse.

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