Heavily promoted on 6Music over the last couple of years (and, not to mention, by this writer), Norway’s Pom Poko earned themselves well-deserved plaudits for last year’s debut album ‘Birthday’ and its controlled raucousness.
They’ve been saying for a while that they wanted to “embrace their extremes a bit more”. If you’ve seen them live you’ll be hard pressed to imagine how they can be any more extreme than they are already. Vocalist Ragnhild Fangel Jamtveit says they were hoping to create a greater contrast between “meticulously written and arranged songs and a more chaotic execution and recording” while also “exploring the less frantic parts of the Pom Poko universe”.
While their output is always very well written and arranged it never feels like that; rather that it’s just one big spontaneous jam so they’ve nothing to prove in that respect. As for the less frantic parts, well we’ve heard them already on debut album ‘Birthday’ and other songs which didn’t make that cut. What they do here with ‘Like a Lady’, the third single from the new album ‘Cheater’, is what they’ve always been able to do, to explode out of what is the nearest they get to a ballad into a strident and sometimes discordant, but always managed cacophony. I can’t think of any contemporary band which does it better.
When I heard the first two singles from ‘Cheater’, namely ‘Andrew,’ and ‘My Candidacy’, I thought they might have strayed a little too far from a formula that had brought them rapid recognition and success in both Norway and the UK. ‘Birthday’ was voted album of the year in their homeland by the country’s most prestigious mainstream newspaper.
No worries with this one though, they’re right back to form.
‘Like A Lady’ was one of the first songs they wrote for ‘Cheater’ which will be released in January. They started writing it in a cabin near Oslo (everyone in Oslo seems to have a cabin, self-isolation must be de rigueur up there) and finished it in Piedmont in Italy, where they also started recording it.
You need to get yourself prepared for the video. For the first minute and 25 seconds I thought I’d tuned into the iplayer and one of the more bizarre parts of a BBC Scandi-noir TV series episode. We’ve long learned to expect the unexpected from Pom Poko and I have fond memories of standing in the rain at the Øya Festival last year watching them complete their set with some of the bizarre creatures which have populated their previous videos prancing around the stage.
But even I was gobsmacked by this one.
The lyrics evolved from jamming it and are about what makes, or what one thinks makes, a woman, what even being a woman means, and it’s also a kind of tribute to all the different ways of being a woman that are out there. Including the bearded ladies in the video. I’ll give Pom Poko this much. I follow quite a few artists who would have made a meal of a song like that, imbuing it with all kinds of ultra feministic overtones. True to form, Pom Poko just have fun.
And while the male characters are made up to the nines, Ragnhild looks like she just got out of bed. Must mean something.
I see that the video producer here is Marcus Forsgren, who has worked with America’s criminally underrated Arc Iris, a phenomenally innovative band. Much promise for the future there.
Cheater is out on January 15th via Bella Union