Album Review: “Rockland” by Katzenjammer

Norwegian girl group returns with its most varied full-length yet.

Admittedly, there is something charming about those strange phrases that get churned out of online translators. Lines like “He’s acting just like a Snuffleupagus/ That makes my people uneasy/ …/ In my emo prison I’ll be” are, in short, an amalgam of random words that just had to be pulled out of Google Translate’s hat. Right?

Except those verses weren’t churned up by an online translator. They’re actual lyrics written rather earnestly by Scandinavian pop quartet Katzenjammer. It’s not the first time that the band has been, well, weird. Aside from the fact that its name means “cat’s wail” or “hangover” in German, the group has been the embodiment of eclectic and eccentric since breaking out in the Oslo scene 10 years ago. Its debut “Le Pop” was essentially a psychedelic clown fest, and its poignant follow-up “A Kiss Before You Go” embraced Baroque pop steampunk. Unsurprisingly, there was no telling what the brilliant and bizarre Katzenjammer had in store with its latest album, “Rockland.”

What has resulted from the minds of the four multi-instrumentalists is an LP that hasn’t fully planted its feet in one crazy theme as its predecessors have. The quartet restlessly travels across a variety of narratives, from a Western saloon in the twangy opener “Old De Spain” to a charming Celtic landscape in the jig-rousing riffs of “My Dear.” There’s no real overall tone that connects these disparate tracks. At one moment, the band gets in touch with its grungy side in the incomprehensible “Oh My God” (see above for a taste of its lyrical ridiculousness), and in the next, the musicians are plinking away at a toy piano in the delightful “Dry Pop.”

In the big picture, the album is a mess. But perhaps that’s what makes each individual track so charismatic, unabashedly showing off Katzenjammer’s versatility in this organized chaos. “Rockland” is a bit of a misnomer, as none of the tracks can really be considered rock. Instead, they boldly stride on a tightrope of indie folk-slash-chamber pop.

Nah, scratch that. This is Katzenjammer: They’re as slippery as an alley cat sneaking around, refusing to be labeled or owned by anyone — or in this band’s case, a genre. This album might not be as coherent as the group’s past works, but that’s okay, because every single song is teeming with the talent and effort that these snarky ladies put in. “Rockland” should probably have been called “Katzenjammerland,” but does it matter? We’re warmly welcome to it.