Katzenjammer - A Kiss Before You Go
Like pulling back the curtain on a vaudeville performance, you truly don’t know what to expect next as Katzenjammer’s second album – but debut UK effort – A Kiss Before You Go unfolds before your ears. Containing as many moments that make you swoon as well make you go ‘huh?!’, it’s one of the year’s most singular albums – and also one of its most invigorating. While at the acoustic end of the spectrum in comparison, the Norwegian four-piece evoke memories of Kentucky rockers Cage The Elephant, both sharing a freewheeling approach to their craft with an eye firmly kept on making themselves noticed and remembered. A Kiss Before You Go achieves this and more, with repeat voyages into the weirdness guaranteed.
It all starts off on a wave of lush normality though once the theatrical title track is fully unveiled and we ease straight into lead single ‘I Will Dance (When I Walk Away)’. With its toe-tapping melody and honeyed vocal harmonies, it’s an early benchmark and one frequently matched with the likes of the emotively rich ‘Land Of Confusion’ – “These are the hands we’re given / Use them and let’s start trying / To make this a place worth living in” – and the utterly gorgeous ‘Lady Marlene’, the latter lifted by a stunning central vocal.
But just when you think you have Katzenjammer all sewed up as a delightful folk troupe, they deliver the right amount of oddity with the upbeat sea shanty ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ before going full Cuckoo’s Nest. ‘Cocktails And Ruby Slippers’, all wailed sharp vocals and staccato drumming, really shouldn’t work and yet, somehow, it does with something potentially hideously annoying morphing into a wickedly demented ditty. With this out of the way, they proceed to play with the handbrakes off as the dramatically gothic ‘Soviet Trumpeter’ and the practically instrumental ‘Gypsy Flee’ – with added, oddly creepy, background shouts and harmonies – among the many highlights that follow, determined in their mission to beguile and baffle you.
Culminating in the frankly astonishing harmonised a cappella ‘God’s Great Dust Storm’ – jaws on floor a prerequisite for any listen – A Kiss Before You Go departs, leaving us breathless and pondering over what we’ve just heard. Refusing to be background music, the album requires – and deserves – your full attention as otherwise you’ll drop in at one moment to be wrapped in a lovely acoustic melody, only to swing by later on and be hit with a full-blown gothic drama. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes but it’s hard to believe any other album this year will make you feel so off-balance as it unfolds – a really rather glorious feeling to be felt in a musical world too often filled with convention.