Pom Poko: Cheater review – Wacky, joyful and crammed with creativity

You never quite know which way any of these songs are going to swing

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Artist: Pom Poko
Genre: Alternative
Label: Bella Union

A Scandi indie-pop band comprised of jazz students who formed to play punk songs at a literature festival, named after an animated Studio Ghibli film about Japanese raccoon dogs? You already know Pom Poko are probably not going to be the most conventional-sounding troupe you’ve ever heard.

The Norwegian four-piece’s second album is just as wacky as their 2019 debut, Birthday, which is certainly not a bad thing. Cheater is a  heady brew of pop, punk and grunge with offbeat song structures, and you never quite know which way any of these songs are going to swing within the course of three minutes.

The title track begins as a quirky pop tune that quickly descends into a gleefully scuzzy clatter; the choppy distortion and menacing bassline of Andy Go to School veers headlong into Battles-style math-rock riffs with little warning, while Like a Lady fully embraces its barefaced, buzzy nod to The Breeders.

Throughout this compact album, singer Ragnhild Fangel’s sweet, airy vocals are brilliantly juxtaposed with stealthy squalls of atonal chords that often appear out of nowhere. There is so much creativity and colour crammed into these three-minute songs that it should really sound either chaotic or too clever for its own good. Instead, Pom Poko find a groove that works despite its offbeat constituents, leaving a trail of joyful noise in their wake.

Download: Cheater, Like a Lady, Andy Go to School