Pom Poko, a Norwegian band who can only be described prog-punk, are playing their biggest UK tour yet this month. They released their debut album “Birthday” in February and this performance at the Scala in Kings Cross was the third time I’ve seen them this year. The first was at the Lexington, just up the Pentonville Road from the Scala, in April; and the second was at End of the Road in September, where I thought they were one of the highlights of the whole weekend.
The album is excellent – a mass of screeching riffs and solos, pulsating beats and endless time changes. Nothing is ever the same for long. On top of this near-chaos, singer Ragnhild Jamtveit’s high-register vocals veer from the sweet to the quirky to the slightly crazed. It’s heading for a spot in my top ten of the year for sure – and it won’t sound like anything else in there.
Live is even better because this band are just so much fun! I don’t think I’ve seen many bands who seem to be enjoying themselves so much. And this is personified by Ragnhild, who bounces around the stage at every opportunity with a smile on her face. She does stern too, but it’s only for show – she is loving it. The rhythm section of Jonas Krovel and Ola Djupvik are incredibly tight and handle all the time changes with aplomb. But the genius of the band is guitarist Martin Tonne, who gets so many great riffs out of just the one guitar, as he stands to one side in his blue boiler suit. The sound is deeper and dirtier than on record – and it rocks! It’s pretty relentless in fact – there’s really only one song, “Honey”, where they slow down for long, and even then it’s not exactly a ballad. But Ragnhild needs some rest from all the jumping around.
Yes, Pom Poko are one of my discoveries of the year without a doubt. And as a live act, despite the complexity of their music (by pop standards) they are a full-on slug of rock’n’roll with one of the most charismatic singers around. Pure enjoyment from start to finish.