Pom Poko, “Cheater”
By Margaret Farrell · November 05, 2020 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Pom Poko’s music has an explosive sweetness to it, like putting a Peep in the microwave. On their 2019 debut Birthday, the Norwegian group blended punchy noise pop with lovelorn lyrics and chirpy vocals. Follow-up Cheater has a heightened combustibility, with tighter twists and turns accompanied by more forceful insights.

Pom Poko don’t waste in showing off their talent for structural innovation on Cheater. In the first minute of the opening track, they descend from zapping, anxious guitars and childlike vocals from singer Ragnhild Fangel into a languid dream-like state, before ramping back up to a frantic tempo within the blink of an eye. Cheater is filled with such unexpected dopamine spikes, the detailed guitar work fitting somewhere between St. Vincent’s Annie Clark and the Pixies’ Joey Santiago. Martin Miguel Tonne’s guitar eruptions are never tonally redundant, ranging from fervent cat scratches to the angular steering of a defensive bumper car.

In their brightest moments, Pom Poko use pointed riffs and distortion to battle greater forces of evil. On “Like A Lady,” Fangel mocks misogynist conventions, her vocals prim while singing, “How to be a great mind/ Be both gracious and kind/ Like a lady.” Then, during the fuzz-bolstered chorus, her voice bursts with power, making clear that Fangel is far from a docile white-gloved debutante. Elsewhere, Pom Poko dispenses advice to combat an anxious mind. “Nothing is what you think,” Fangel promises on “Look.” On album closer “Body Level,” Pom Poko asserts that a new mindset can welcome a better outlook. “Change the focus, things get better,” as the nervy atmosphere simmers into excitement for a happier future.

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