Even before the bit where a gang of rebellious raccoon dogs use their gargantuan testicles to launch a strike against a band of policeman, 1994’s Pom Poko stands as one of the more vigorously outré films from Japanese animation visionaries Studio Ghibli. In other words, Norwegian quartet Pom Poko have picked a rare belter of a band-name for their own anti-conformist manoeuvres. Between the quartet’s sweetly punky melodies and disco-fried art-rock eruptions, a spirit of free-firing, balls-out individuality courses through Pom Poko’s exhilarating debut album, Birthday, released through Bella Union.
As the band explain, “The Pom Poko film 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.
“Plus,” they add, “the raccoons in the movie and raccoons in general are really badass.” The band’s own bad-ass-ery is writ large on opener “Theme1”, which locates a sweet spot between Deerhoof and Battles as singer Ragnhild Fangel issues loud, clear rebel yells over Martin Miguel Almagro Tonne’s math-rock guitar. “My Blood” and “Follow the Lights” layer seductively sweet melodies over squalls of sound, while the funk-fired “My Work Is Full of Art” offers a kind of mission statement: “I’ll just let freaky surround me,” sings Fangel.