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Brand New Knife decisively resolves the laughing with/laughing at question—if only because Shonen Knife’s latest release leaves no one laughing at all. The Osaka trio has finally completed its 15-year journey from incompetence to irrelevance with a disc both unadvisedly ambitious and joylessly professional (OK, so Naoko Yamano still can’t handle arpeggios all that well). But there was a time—after she and her rhythm section had learned to play but before they forgot why bassist Michie Nakatani once had to hide her guitar from her parents—that Shonen Knife’s unabashed odes to fishing, riding bicycles, and eating candy of all kinds were as radically pleasurable as anything in pop. When the Japanese Shaggs (or is it the Japanese Ramones or Japanese Buzzcocks?) lament that a slate of similar activities make for “one weak life” you know the end is near. For old times’ sake see if Shonen Knife can recall what it was like to wanna be Twist Barbie tonight when Pluto and Splitsville open at 7:30 p.m. at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. $12. (202) 393-0930. (GD)