Album Review

Radio-ready pop from Katzenjammer

June 28, 2010

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It’s sometimes easy to forget the many permutations of pop music that don’t involve Justin Bieber and/or Auto-Tune. Take “Le Pop,’’ for instance: a topsy-turvy romp through Balkan folk, rockabilly, cabaret and carnival tunes, the first album from the Norwegian all-female quartet Katzenjammer is also often, unexpectedly, as catchy as anything on Top 40 radio. From the frenetic, fanfare-filled opening moments of “A Bar in Amsterdam,’’ these giddy gals waste no time trying to win over listeners with their quirky, high-energy gypsy-rock.

Taking turns on a dizzying mix of nearly 30 instruments — including xylophones, glockenspiels, and an omnipresent accordion — Katzenjammer nimbly avoids kitschy pastiche and radiates the intimate vibe of a bunch of buskers goofing off on some street corner in Oslo. “Hey Ho On the Devil’s Back’’ sounds like a 19th-century sea shanty crossed with rowdy honky-tonk piano; “Tea With Cinnamon’’ is pure twee, down to its affecting earworm of a hook.

While all four musicians boast solid chops, the stand-out singer is Marianne Sveen, who belts Delta blues on “Ain’t No Thang’’ and scats, coos, and growls her way through the shuffling “Demon Kitty Rag.’’ Even the inane pseudo-raps of the title track (“feelin’ like a lollipop, forgot in Pyongyang/ dancin’ to the voodoo beats, boom-bam-bam!’’) end up being far more fun than they have any right to be.

Like many debuts, the record sags in its latter half, but by that point Katzenjammer has proven itself an eclectic circus act with mischievously pop capabilities. (Out tomorrow) ADAM CONNER-SIMONS

ESSENTIAL “Tea With Cinnamon’’

Katzenjammer will be at Cafe 939 on July 8