Katzenjammer - Le Pop
Record Label: Nettwerk
Release Date: June 29, 2010
Like snow in July or Holland's upset over Brazil, Le Pop, the debut album from Norwegian quartet Katzenjammer is a welcoming and unexpected surprise. Wading in the waters of vaudevillian chamber pop, gypsy folk and Euro-country, Le Pop is an auspicious and charismatic collection of 12 left-of-center folk gems. After an amiable overture, the disc kick starts with the raucous "A Bar in Amsterdam," a free-wheeling and spirited romp through Dutch bacchanalia.
On the band's more subdued moments, namely the spartan ballad "Wading in the Deeper" the four precocious chanteuses deliver a stark and direct vocal tour-de-force.The histrionic "Demon Kitty Rag," certainly shares a kinship with Gogol Bordello, but the quartet's arresting harmonies helps make the entire performance that much better. Whereas many discs falter in the middle, the center section is augmented by the bouncy title track, the raucous and macabre instrumental "Der Kapitan," and the poignant "Virginia Clemm." On the album's darker cuts, most notably the haunting, "Hey Ho on the Devil's Back," there's an attention to detail and tone that isn't too often seen here in America.
While Eugene Hutz is struggling with his trans-continental hustle, this Scandinavian quartet are chasing down something far more memorable. Bolstered by ample amounts of violin, circus organs, melodica and accordion, these forward-thinking Euro-gals have crafted an album of highly original, deeply resonant folk opuses. Employing all four of the vocalists at various points, Le Pop is anchored in deft musicianship, a slew of European musical styles and a nod to America's folkloric history.
And yet what's most enjoyable about Katzenjammer is that this genre of music is being so widely embraced. Ten years ago, compositions like this were few and far between, often found in subway stations and Hungarian basement bars. But thanks to forward-thinking folks like Zach Condon and Joanna Newsom, off-kilter musicians are getting their due. While their fate in America is still to be determined, one would think the success of those aforementioned curators bodes well for these raven-haired beauties.
If this is indeed just the start, an unpredictable and intriguing escapade is about to take flight. Katzenjammer, you say? Katzenjammer, it is.