Pushing the boundary with punk-rock influences
Norwegian-based Pom Poko’s newest album Cheater, with strange progressions and bubbly choruses, has a distinct sound that people are surely not used to. Incredibly catchy riffs flow with the lead’s vocals, leading it to be one of their more innovative and ambitious albums. By existing in-between the framework of tried-and-true punk aesthetic and the modern indie rock sound, Pom Poko ensures to surprise listeners by forging a distinct position. It truly aims to push boundaries on one’s expectation for their sound.
This is especially apparent with the track “Like A Lady.” Despite the cacophonous chord progressions, the song is irresistibly catchy when belting on the ways femininity can be expressed, describing the ways in which women express themselves. With the inherent lyricality of the vocalist intertwined with its distorted instrumentals, the song expresses a multitude of possibilities, perhaps even indicating band’s refusal of singularity.
It is abundantly clear from the very first chord that Pom Poko wants to forge its own path. Part bubblegum sweet and noisily bitter, the line is always a threshold to coexist in. The balance varies from each song, but it’s a boundary that is constantly being pushed. No matter how one listens to it, Cheater is simply a fun album. It is impossible to listen to it without a smile or a tap of the foot, as even in its distortion the musicality still is placed at the forefront.
Perhaps no greater example is in the titular track “Cheater,” which immediately grabs one into the sort of sound that will get stuck in one’s head for days. Even with an unorthodox vocals with louder instrumentals, there is a blend of the two that makes it inherently distinct. With such a strong opener, Pom Poko reiterates that they will use their sound in order to pave their way into the scene. While it might not be for everyone, it certainly is unapologetic in its amalgamation of various elements. The bridge is one of the strongest on the albums, akin to an ’80s instrumental break.
Even their more experimental exploits, such as “Baroque Denial,” has a riff that reiterates a sort of groove underneath what would be a much heavier song. By inherently placing the song with these rhythms, the listener never has to stray far from a musical comfort. While pushing the boundary, they never truly abandon the power of a strong melody. It is an advantageous effort, as it always brings forth an inversion of traditional expectations in rock, even with the noisy ending that allows all instrumentals to overlap with one another.
“Andrew” is one of the strongest songs on the album due to its perfect melding of their two characteristic elements. With its opening describing him through more unusual, perhaps even violent imagery, it is a take on a love song that consistently allows the vocals to shine. That is not to say the instrumentals are not are at its heights, as the push/pull of the vocals/instrumentals encourage the same interplay that the lyrics take part in. This truly makes the song seem more dynamic, bringing one to feel closer to the storyline it depicts.
Similarly, “Body Level” has a push/pull with the voals and its instrumentals. Almost combining for attention, Pom Poko ensures its entire band highlights their talents. Behind the sweet harmony’s back-up vocals, there is a respect to the lyricality of Pom Poko’s work. It is largely a declaration of the ability to get better. It is a positive note that ends the album in a way that feels satisfying, allowing the noise to calm down slightly while still maintaining the true sound of their oeuvre.
With a genre that is sometimes prone to falling into a mold, Cheater is an album that reiterates a sensibility often neglected. Whether one wants to call them a reinvented homage to punk rock or bursting into a niche completely their own, Pom Poko’s sophomore album is more than promising. In fact, with the band’s sweet vocals and noise-rock/punk instrumentals, Pom Poko might just carry their music into its own blazing future.