A Kiss Before You Go

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It's quite appropriate that Norwegian four-piece girl group Katzenjammer are named after a comic strip popular in the early- to mid-20th century, as their highly eclectic sound feels both slightly cartoonish and unashamedly stuck in a postwar cabaret time warp. Their second album, A Kiss Before You Go, continues where 2008 debut Le Pop left off, blending their impressive multi-instrumental skills with an array of old-school sounds, from the gentle melancholic waltz of "Lady Marlene," to the sinister vaudeville of "Soviet Trumpeter," to the ukulele-led doo wop of "Cherry Pie." Their kitsch punk tendencies occasionally come to the forefront, as on the theatrical Adam Ant-esque "Loathsome M" and the yelping pirate-like ditty "Gypsy Flee" (featuring a cameo from Dweezil Zappa), but while their sense of fun is infectious, it's the less chaotic moments that prove there's more to them than the "look at us, aren't we wacky" exterior. Recorded live in a church, "God's Great Dust Storm" is a gorgeous a cappella gospel ballad that showcases their wondrous four-part harmonies, although from the powerful soulful vocals on the 1920s-style reworking of Genesis' "Land of Confusion," it appears to be Marianne Sveen who's the star of the show; "I Will Dance (When I Walk Away)" is an early Dixie Chicks-style blend of shuffling percussion, twinkling glockenspiels, and stirring acoustic hooks that provides the album's only real radio-friendly offering; while "Rock Paper Scissors" is an enchanting slice of Baltic-tinged folk-pop, co-written by Nashville singer/songwriter Robert Ellis Orrall. A Kiss Before You Go has its fingers in so many pies that it's unlikely to be appreciated entirely by many, but listened to in small portions, it's difficult not to be enamored by its inventiveness and inherent avant-garde charm.

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