Album review: Katzenjammer's 'Le Pop'

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Friday, July 9, 2010


"Le Pop"

Kindred spirits: the Decemberists, Devotchka, Gogol Bordello

Show: Saturday at Iota. Show starts at 9 p.m. 703-522-8340.

On paper, Katzenjammer sounds like a hot mess. The four Norwegian women trade off lead vocal duties and instruments on nearly every song on their debut album, "Le Pop." And they aren't using standard rock instruments either. The tunes feature contrabass balalaika, domra, accordion and harpeleik, among many others.

But the instrumental revolving door is more than just a gimmick; these songs are immaculately arranged and executed. That is no small feat, since the group also swaps musical styles as effortlessly as its instruments with hardly a weak link in the bunch. There seems to be no genre this quartet can't tackle, from the accelerating Balkan folk of "A Bar in Amsterdam" with its zippy horn blasts to the swing-tinged "Demon Kitty Rag" and the mellow, twangy "Wading in Deeper."

Katzenjammer never lacks energy, even on its slower pieces. Occasionally, though, the group's exuberance teeters on the brink of unbridled chaos (the title track, in particular, sounds like a circus band gone rogue). But more often, Katzenjammer reins in that fervor to make a charmingly quirky collection of songs out of its rotating collection of instruments.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

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