Pom Poko are no strangers to this part of the world. On the back of their debut album, Birthday, in 2019 the four-piece played Liverpool’s Jacaranda.
It was a memorable night, with the band producing bundles of raw energy and sharp songcraft.
The Norwegians return with their sophomore effort in Cheater, which continues the trajectory in quality and builds on the momentum of Birthday.
Pom Poko (Ragnhid Fangel Jamtveit – singer, Martin Miguel Almagro Tonne – guitarist, Ola Djupvik – bass, Jonas Krøvel – drums) sculpture sounds that wouldn’t have looked out of place on K Records back in the late ’80s. That wild musicianship injected with a feminine spark à la Beat Happening.
With Cheater, Pom Poko open the curtains, enticing new listeners into their slightly left-of-centre world.
The skewed reverie of the Cheater’s eponymous track eases us into the album. Like A Lady follows and is jazz-inspired noise-pop perfection with a hook that packs a punch so strong it loosens your teeth. The punches continue with the fuzz-laden hip-shaker that is My Candidacy. Both tracks examples of Pom Poko putting their foot on the gas.
And that’s when they are at their best. While Danger Baby is a hypnotic change in pace, ultimately when Pom Poko drop the gears (Andrew, Curly Romance) it stems the momentum of Cheater. It doesn’t happen too often, though.
Musically, it’s unquestionable that Pom Poko are on point and seeing these songs live would be a mesmerising experience. The fissures of each song examples of how a band could present different variations in a live sense.
The frenzied banger and perhaps Cheater’s highlight, the sinewy Andy Go to School is flanked brilliantly by the equally urgent Look. Both perfect representations of how we miss and yearn for live music so much at the moment.
Imagining these songs in the confines of sweaty basements is at least something to look forward to, despite feeling sympathy with a band serving up such fresh and appetising sounds for these currently elusive habitats.
With sharp drum beats, swerving guitars and sneaky cowbell, Baroque Denial, is probably the song that best sums up Pom Poko and Cheater.
Inspired by the aforementioned K Records and more recently, Deerhoof, Pom Poko do a good job of making their radical aesthetic palatable to a wider audience. Equally, the hooks snarl and the poppier moments shine enough for a broader listenership to make sense of Pom Poko’s off-kilter racket.
It really is the best of both worlds.