Pom Poko: Cheater (Bella Union)

Oslo quartet return with impressive post punk / alt. pop referencing second LP

Released Jan 15th, 2021 via Bella Union / By Al Judkins
Pom Poko: Cheater (Bella Union) The stifling need for fresh, exciting and interesting new music to cherish over this long and bleak winter is constantly throbbing like the pain of an uncompromising in-growing toenail. Having heard this name chucked around a bit concerning said needs, this was a golden opportunity to sink one’s teeth into Pom Poko and their second album Cheater. First impressions of this Norwegian quadrant came by way of ten seconds of the opening title track in which the initial thoughts were “Oh God please not another post-punk band!” (in all honesty, tea was spat out in laughter when someone called up Squid describing their album by simply claiming The Rapture have reformed). However, if the average attention span is dared to expand just a fraction, this is an opener adorned with twists, turns and amicable charm, at least four catchy hooks and something which becomes more and more apparent as this record playfully mines its way into the ears as it progresses – these guys can really do their choruses. The captivating lead vocals from Ragnhild Fangel and the wacky guitar based inventions of Martin Miguel Tonne help to invoke the perfect summit of joyful noise. The anthemic single Like A Lady follows up with an even bigger chorus. Heavy, intense and punchy thanks in no small part to distorted bass tones from Jonas Krøvel, you get a sense of extreme amplification satisfaction, and a buzz propelled by the fun and catchy content connecting these four minds.

With hope that this is taken in a complimentary way, one can’t beat around the bush in regards to the fact they bear a massive resemblance to Deerhoof. But to be fair to them, not many other bands do that and still sound this convincing. The first likening to this vocal style that comes to mind is Satomi Matsuzaki – another Japanese connection on top of their band name (Pom Poko is an early Studio Ghibli film). Reading more into the group, their first LP Birthday made some serious waves that obviously missed this author’s radar. With that in the earphones, both for review research and general enjoyment, this effort seems more succinct and playing to the strengths that shined on their debut. It’s evident in tracks like Danger Baby, which is the peachiest odd-pop evocative of early Cardigans albums and also much needed respite after the fulfilling but aurally knackering hyperdrive of My Candidacy which directly precedes it. There are pepperings of movements that spark some Cardiacs remembrance too, by way of unpredictable compositions and close up, frenetic, uncomfortable sounds that work their way up into some sort of framework of sense, usually leading to smirksome results.

Andy Go To School is the go-to uptempo tune full of tight mega drumming skills from Ola Djupvik, delectable vocal aerobics, arpeggiating effects and an incredible wash of comprehensive clamour. Baroque Denial opens up with a gorgeous melodious middle section that can linger in your head for a whole weekend, and offsets the barmy barrel roll ending brilliantly. This one is a treat. The album finishes with the Field Music-esque chorus and choral verses of Body Level. This number generally feels a bit more on the sensible side of things and probably wise for setting the listener up for dealing with the real world again once the record ceases. Cheater is an enticing body of work that lives up to the hope of finding a new weird pop group with the ever-burning desire to push boundaries. Melodies will leave earworms weaving into your brain, and like the Pom Poko film, it will capture the imagination in an unforgettable way - the antidote to that itch you know needs to be scratched. 4/5