Pom Poko are one of the bands who can make even the most jaded of gig goer fall in love with live music experience all over again. They’re weird, intriguing, confusing, and an utter joy to watch.
When their debut album, Birthday, was released via Bella Union in February, in an attempt to make sense of it, they were immediately likened to countless other bands, from Foals to The Sugarcubes, Battles to Shonen Knife. They on the other hand, go a step further, citing Oumou Sangare, Vulfpeck, Death Grips, Jenny Hval and Nick Drake as influences. If that sounds confusing or unlikely, well, that’s their charm. An eccentric, fizzing cocktail of sounds, each track keeps you on edge, wondering which way it’s going to go.
From the second the Norwegian four piece pile on stage, their colourful cartoon backdrop having teased throughout the laid back synth-surf sound of support act Liz Lawrence, they lead the audience on a bonkers musical journey. They open with their record’s first track, Theme 1, with its mechanical refrain of “Sublime, Sufficient”, singer Ragnhild eyeballing the crowd, looking slightly startled by the number of eyes looking back at her.
As a frontperson, she’s utterly infectious; pouting and glaring as she sings, grinning wildly when she’s not, as she pogos, thrashes her arms about or leans over into the crowd, conducting both the band and audience, utterly lost in the moment. The rest of the band too are highly animated, their bodies playing out these screeching sounds, as well as their instruments. Birthday is a great record but this interaction brings it to life; it thrives on stage.
Tonight’s set showcases their debut record, in which no song sounds the same as the last, and all songs are pretty indescribable, sounding like 20 songs melded together with a some ribbon, glitter, sweat and plenty of sharp edges.
The title track of the album – a single and crowd favourite – sounds like a mad anime translation, gushingly sweet and nonsensical, which makes the vicious sting “I’m not your bitch!” even more satisfying. Day Tripper twists the riff from The Beatles’ song, morphing into clunking, grinding The B52s-ish guitars, with heavy drums fired over the top.
Previous single Follow The Lights demonstrates their utter disregard for convention. One moment it’s all lumbering, slow strung guitars, over which Ragnhild thrashes a cow bell, the next singsong vocals take centre stage. Album highlight Crazy Energy Night fuses prog rock with post punk – it’s skittish, erratic – and as daft as its name.
The thumping, tribal beats of If U Want Me 2 Stay provide a backdrop to Ragnhild’s brilliant, heavily accented vocals, while My Blood starts with a hyper-Manga call-out, before industrial post-punk guitars steer things.
They end things by crashing to the ground, grinding guitars still going. Like a kids’ toy that will never stop… even with the batteries removed.
The band took their name from a film by the legendary Japanese animators, Studio Ghibli. Of that inspiration they say: “[It] captures a lot of what we’d like our concerts to be: high energy, fast pace, lots of stimulus for eyes and ears – and most importantly, really crazy and fun. The movie is basically the time of your life for two hours, and afterwards you’re in some state of exhausted ecstasy.” Mission accomplished.