When a band names themselves after a Japanese cult film about shapeshifting raccoons, it’s probably safe to assume that their style and approach to music might be a little off the wall. With Norwegian art-rockers Pom Poko, the band in question here, there is no exception. Throughout the twelve songs on their debut album, Birthday, the band deliver a joyous racket and an audible celebration of weirdness with mazy hooks and surreal shrieked lyrics that are bursting with charm.
On their website and social media, the Trondheim four-piece label themselves as ‘Pure Norwegian Punky Sweetness’. It’s pretty hard to find a way to disagree with this statement; there’s a definite raw and punkish edge to their sound, yet at the same time there’s a saccharine playfulness to their sound, making it easy to draw comparisons between them and artists such as Marnie Stern and Deerhoof, the latter of whom have dealt in the realm of noisy-yet-cute-and-also-complex music for 25 years. It might be a little early to say on the basis of an incredible debut whether they’ll make a quarter-century in the business, but I’d certainly have no complaints if they did.
While the high-octane singles ‘My Blood’, ‘Follow The Lights’ and ‘Crazy Energy Night’ have earnt the praises of many, including the likes of BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley, the remainder of the album proves that they haven’t just crammed all of their ideas into a trio of songs and that each of the tracks showcased here is brimming with the same exuberance. There’s breakneck guitar riffs on songs like ‘Day Tripper’ (complete with a Beatles homage), and angular experimentation in rhythm in the title track ‘Birthday’ (sadly no Beatles homage) that ensure there’s always something keeping the listener interested. However, if you’re worried that this constant hyperactivity might become a little suffocating, there are thankfully moments of respite where the band take a moment to breathe and provide brilliance through gentler songs like the funky ‘Blue’ and power-pop closer ‘Peachy’.
Birthday does its very best to sound like a manic children’s birthday party in the best possible way – it’s easy to imagine this providing the soundtrack to hours of frantically throwing yourself around on bouncy castles, stuffing your face with jelly and vomiting after spinning in circles too much. Early bets say that I’ll be hard-pressed to find another new band this year that have me grinning as much as Pom Poko have with their debut effort. There’s fun aplenty and I can’t get enough of it.
Reuben Cross hosts The Inessential Guide on COOL MOVES RADIO.