Album Review: Pom Poko - 'Birthday'


A weird, wired, distracted and phenomenally mathy take on all the classic genres.

Pom Poko's 2017 and 2018 singles have all been welcome distractions from some of the more self-serious alternative guitar music over the past two years. No two songs have been from the same ballpark. However, what they have had in common is a fevered sense of enjoyment, experimentation, unashamed technique and a deep rooted Scandinavian ability to pen a perfect pop song. These aren't pop songs for the faint-hearted; more audible nuggets of adrenaline for the thrill seekers among us. The skewed, angular, energy of their singles has not been lost in transition to the album stage. If anything, Pom Poko have left their more fried left field attempts at pop music perfection for the more patient of us. 

Mania is the only thing that ensues during "Theme 1", the emphatic opener to Pom Poko’s debut album, “Birthday”. Starting with the best two word album review ever repeated as a mantra, "Sublime. Sufficient.", followed by a brief interlude of nursery rhyme style melody before all hell breaks loose and the Norwegian outfit do their best impression of Three Trapped Tigers on acid. Guitars sounding  like they are played by octopi spin around the place at a million miles per hour. The nursery rhyme is repeated over the aforementioned madness before latest single "My Blood" leaps into action, with a confused time signature providing the backdrop for machine gun riffs and a blissed out Bombay Bicycle club style chorus, finished off with a sublimely out of place guitar solo. "Follow the Lights" is a Rapture-meets-Led Zeppelin electro-blues romp, all done in the style of late 70's punk records. Early album highlight "My Work is Full of Art" is like an opera in three minutes, shying away from riffs momentarily and relying on a new found smoothness, before a classic rock style chorus equipped with key change ends the song on an epic high. "Blue" and "Honey" slow the album down with tricky Foals style indie math before the album mantra is fulfilled on the self-explanatory "Crazy Energy Nights" made complete with substantial cowbell. Jazzy "Milk Trust" shows yet another side to this incredibly versatile four piece and "Daytripper" is a wonderful pastiche of the Beatles classic. Pom Poko lay their roots all over the spectrum of popular music but with their own ferocious invention and energy. 

Words by James Kitchen

Pom Poko’s debut album, ‘Birthday’, is released through Bella Union on 22 Feb 2019.