Katzenjammer – Le Pop

Katzenjammer - Le Pop

While seeking out some choice selections of non-US/non-UK music I was hipped to the all-female, Norwegian band Katzenjammer. Although I missed their recent swing through Philadelphia (and I’m sorry that I skipped it), their late June release Le Pop is an exciting entry into the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink (well, maybe that too) approach to rock music. I’ve heard Katzenjammer referenced as the female version of Gogol Bordello, but the application of folk-styles to more modern music doesn’t make them automatic contemporaries. This powerhouse definitely experiments with genres, but don’t mistake them for some gypsy-punk hybrid as they are neither.

The four members of Katzenjammer all sing and all seem to play multiple instruments. While the main sounds heard here come from the usual instrumentation, the ladies mix it up with a number of unexpected things such as:  melodica, organs, and even a balalaika with a cat’s face painted on it. The members create some really memorable harmonies and whether hammering through a polka, Balkan folk ditty, or sea shanty, there’s much to absorb from this raucous quartet.

Le Pop has thirteen tracks if you include the short “Overture” that begins the whole affair. One thing is for sure, with this much style you won’t find your attention drifting for even a moment – adding to the intrigue is the fact that vocal duties are switched up as frequently as instruments are swapped (with a few dozen making an appearance on the album). Although the trumpet-led “Bar in Amsterdam” is the song that lit the fire under the Katzenjammer machine – and I do love this song – there’s even better stuff here. “Demon Kitty Rag” could have easily evolved out of a twisted Scandanavian fairytale while “Tea with Cinnamon”, which begins with a bit of circus organ, slaps in you the face with its total twee immersion. The title track makes me feel as though I’m on an off-kilter merry-go-round and “Play, My Darling Play” is a Euro-country tune worth plenty of toe tapping.

While Eugene Hutz seems to be struggling to keep the street urchin flavor alive in his music while travelling the world in comfort, Katzenjammer takes aim at various world styles with childlike abandon. In other words, these ladies don’t seem to take themselves too seriously. While Le Pop is wonderfully written and played – and Turid, Solveig, Marianne, and Anne Marit have great voices to boot – their songs are playful and fun, without a hint of pretension. Maybe it’s the fact that they haven’t lived in the US for an extended period of time or maybe it’s the lack of self-importance leaking from their songs. It could just be the newness of the band. Regardless, Katzenjammer are primed for even greater things to come. Based on how excellent Le Pop is, I’ll be kicking myself until the next time the band returns to Philadelphia and I get to see them perform these songs live.