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Pom Poko (Norway) – Champion (single/future album title track)

The press release I received concerning Pom Poko’s latest single, ‘Champion’ which is released on 18th April, just a day before a short UK tour which is their first for a couple of years, is so succinct that I seriously considered simply dumping it here, verbatim.

But I couldn’t possibly do that, especially with a band like Pom Poko.

‘Champion’ is an appropriate title for a song from a band that came out of nowhere in 2017 to seize Norway by storm with their unique all-action take on math rock.

Subsequently they released their debut album, ‘Birthday’ in the same year (2019) that they appeared at the Øya festival in Oslo, performing what for me was the most spirited show of any that I saw. It was so good they should have headlined it.

And the album was so manically powerful that it produced the sort of energy you might expect to find in the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN laboratory.

It wasn’t long before they had secured their own niche in the UK, too, with support from several BBC 6Music DJs and had it not been for the fact that it was during the BBC’s Sigrid adoration era I reckon they would have been elevated to an even higher plane.

That niche status was also won in Australia, where the Triple J station seems to be wedded to Norwegian music.

Since then they’ve racked up nominations and awards including Spellemann (Norwegian Grammys), the Nordic Music Prize, the Bendiksen Prize, and the GramArt scholarship Edvard Prize.

They won album of the year for ‘Birthday’ from me in a publication I was writing for at the time and shortly after that from Aftenposten, Norway’s largest printed newspaper by circulation. Aftenposten clearly knows who take their lead from. 🙂

Then along came the pandemic and all the cancelled gigs that went with it, including in the UK although they did manage to get here once.

During that wretched period they released the second album, ‘Cheater’, one that fell a little short of the standards of the first one, but that was only to be expected; a combination of second album syndrome, or sophomore slump, whatever you want to call it, and the brilliance of ‘Birthday’.

There has been an EP since, ‘This is our House’ (2022) which even included an interpretation of a classical piece by Bach. They are all graduates of the illustrious Trondheim Conservatoire and so know of these things.

But other than that there is nothing that I’ve heard of them since and I believe they might have been working on separate projects.

So what are we to make of ‘Champion’, which is released in anticipation of the album of the same name and which is scheduled for 16th August on the Bella Union label?

They say it is one of their favourite songs on the album, formed out of a demo that didn’t originally convince everyone until a few adjustments were made and a groove substantiated.

Also that they’ve learned to ‘trust’ their own songwriting more than previously, enabling ‘Champion’ to sound “cleaner and leaner.”

The first observation is that the riff which caused so much mirth, and the bass line which precedes it, sound like an attempt by earthlings to contact the aliens or vice versa in a Quatermass or Dr Who episode from the 1960s.

They might appear to be odd progressions to build a song around but Pom Poko is nothing if not cutting edge and actually they help introduce a pleasant chilled melody into the song, something you wouldn’t automatically associate with the band.

Singer Ragnhild’s vocal is as beguiling as ever but musically it doesn’t tax them at all. It’s possibly the nearest they’ve come to a ballad. I was waiting for an explosion but on this occasion the bomb was diffused. And this time they didn’t do the math. Cleaner and leaner, as they say.

It’s interesting to learn that they consider it such a favourite because it’s a tribute to the sense of togetherness they get in the tour bus which accordingly makes them all feel very safe when they are together in a car.

Ah, the good old Transit Van. It’s good to know that hasn’t gone the way of too many bands, venues, gigs, labels and even reviewers, even if it has bedrooms and toilets in it now.

Think of it as a cruising song and you can’t go wrong. Just champion in fact.

Pom Poko set out on a UK tour with Personal Trainer (that’s a Dutch indie band, not their own fitness coach) and who were also recently signed to Bella Union, on 19th April. The schedule is below.

19 April – The Sugarmill, Stoke on Trent

20 April – Academy 3, Manchester

21 April – The Caves, Edinburgh

23 April – The Wardrobe, Leeds

April 24 – The Beacon, Bristol

April 25 – Electric Ballroom (2P), London

April 26 – Concorde 2, Brighton

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