Top ten: reasons we love Petty Booka.
HONESTLY, WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE about a spunky Japanese girl group performing chirpy ukulele renditions of punk, pop, rock, country and Hawaiian tiki songs? Not much, which is why Tokyo-based Petty Booka is becoming a hot topic among lesbian music lovers. At the South by Southwest showcase in Austin, Texas, where the band performs each year, they're genuine rock stars. Though they're treading on Tiny Tim territory musically, the girls are now getting treatment you'd expect for the likes of the Rolling Stones. Here's why.
1. They remake the classics. Petty Booka did the most unusual Ramones remake ever, retooling the classic "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" to a ukulele-and-steel-drum-charged "I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend." That's not all, of course. From CCR's "Proud Mary" to Van Halen's "Teacher's Pet," Petty Booka is creating disarmingly fresh and girlie versions of classic dick rock.
2. They're ultracool. This petite cow-and-surf-pop duo (I swear, we didn't make that up) create ukulele huke-lau music for hipsters who like Patsy Cline and Blondie in an assuredly Asian riot grrl package. Think Texas cowgirl hats, fringed vests, grass skirts and Army boots.
3. They out-gayed Boy George. "Karma Chameleon" was queer when Boy George crooned it, but it's even queerer when Petty Booka does it in a postmodern ukulele-and-steel-guitar version that, in concert, gets sandwiched between Madonna's "Material Girl" and a sort of reggae version of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin."
4. They're in good company. The duo hasn't just remade classics; they've shared the stage with their own heroes, like the great Wanda Jackson.
5. They love the rain. Singin' in the Rain, their collection of songs with the word "rain" in the title, brightens up even the dreariest winter day.
6. They aren't afraid to sing to girls. Their remake of John Hurt's "Coffee Blues/My Creole Belle" doesn't change a thing--including pronouns--so when the girls sing about their lady's lovin' spoonful, crooning at audiences, "I love her well, my darling baby, my Creole belle," it's hard not to imagine they're singing love songs directly to us.
7. They're Benten babes. Benten Records, a small Japanese girl-punk label run by Audrey Kimura, boasts some of the coolest chick bands in the world, and one by one they're invading the United States. It's about time.
8. They're super busy. This perky and prolific duo has averaged two albums a year. The 12 albums under their belt are Fujiyama Mama, Toconut's Hawaii, Hawaiian Pure Heart, Blue Lagoon, Summer Breeze, Christmas Everywhere, Singin' in the Rain, Ukulele Lady, Sweetheart of the Radio, the 12-inch LP Dancing With Petty Booka, Go! Go! Go! and Go! and a new collection from stateside Weed Records, Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian: The Best of Petty Booka.
9. They're cute. OK, we said this before, but it bears repeating. These girls are super cute, not in that coquettish Sailor Moon-meets-Hello Kitty way, but in that sexy, smart, self-assured, we-could-kick-your-ass-but-we'd-rather-sing-to-you way.
10. They're coming to a town near you. Check them out at www.sister.co.jp or www.weedrecords.com.