THE cover of Any Joy, the debut album by Glasgow’s Pronto Mama, features Charles Darwin as Lady Justice. His hands hold a sword and a pair of scales. A platypus casually floats by his stony flank.

“The platypus is this freak of nature, a mammal that has a beak and lays eggs,” says vocalist/guitarist Marc Rooney of a creature that naturalists initially thought was an elaborate hoax.

“We’ve got a T-shirt with a gold one on it,” Rooney continues. “The platypus is symbolic of the band really.”

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Artist Paul F Wilkie’s image is bang on: Pronto Mama’s music beguiles, the product of six musicians set to a frequency tricky to find on the dial but entirely playable at 3pm. The album’s two singles so far, the scattershot Double-Speak and the brass-glinting Arabesque, flow like sand through the fingers, finely ground but impossible to grasp.

Things somehow cohere around the rhythms of ringlet-haired Martin Johnston, also a member of neo-slackers American Clay. He’s one of the most impressive young drummers around.

“He’s insanely good,” Rooney agrees. “But don’t tell him that – he’s got a big enough heid as it is.”

Like drummer Jack Bevan, co-founder of math-pop titans Foals, Johnston takes you in one direction then darts off somewhere else. It’s slickly done; a prodriver’s handbreak turn, not a newbie’s jolting gear change. And like those of Foals, the duelling guitars of Rooney and fellow songwriter Ciaran McEneny are beetle-y nimble and tight as piano wire.

It is Foals’ work with afrobeat Brooklynites Antibalas that Pronto Mama can recall, especially when trumpet-player Alex Sharples and trombonist Craig McMahon are let loose. As too are the stuttering syncopations of Field Music, the Sunderland outfit recently described as a “post-punk Steely Dan” (a good thing). Other pointers are awkward pop current boys-on-top Dutch Uncles and Bombay Bicycle Club, a band whose jangly milk teeth eventually gave way to giant, eats-everything gnashers.

Though different, all have the appetite – and ability – for music that’s unexpected, rewarding and accessible. But while it took Bombay Bicycle Club seven years before the huge critical and popular hit of 2014’s So Long, See You Tomorrow, this crew are nearly there already. The album is released as Electric Honey, the Glasgow Kelvin College-based label run by The Bluebells’ Ken McLusky, turns 25. Electric Honey have winning form, remember: they released some of the first recordings by Belle and Sebastian, Snow Patrol and Biffy Clyro.

Like those won over by their energetic festival slots, McLusky was hooked by a set at Kelvingrove bandstand. Pronto Mama, you see, have song-writing smarts to match their envelope-pushing ambition.

“There’s always a song there that can be played on an acoustic guitar,” says Rooney, who grew up in the city’s east end immersed in Bowie, The Beatles and Bob Dylan. There’s a video of the bristly-faced singer doing just that on an early version of album closer Memory Song.

“That was recorded in my maw’s house,” he says, with a tired laugh. His weary rasp – the band have just endured a nine-hour bus journey to Brighton to kick off this tour – belies an impressive vocal range. An embryonic Pronto Mama was birthed there when bassist Michael Griffin called on his friend, Rooney’s sister. I played him a couple of songs and it was just a case of him saying: ‘Do you want to start a band?’ And I was like: ‘Aye, all right.’” he says. “What’s really brought us together was a trip to Poland last year,” says Rooney. “We played a jazz festival in this massive amphitheatre and an art gallery, very different places.”

It was, he says, a case of adapt or die.

“Everyone in the band is a really good musician and we managed to do that. But being good at our instruments and having the brass is maybe why people keep thinking we’re a jazz band, which we’re not.”

He adds: “It could be that not defining ourselves has worked against us sometimes. When we were putting the album together, our manager was like: ‘You can’t put that song next to that other song – people aren’t going to have a clue what you’re about!’ But I like that. We wanted to make an album you can go back to.”

If pinned to the examination slab, we might call it “platypus funk” but the importance of descriptions fades in the glimmer of albums as accomplished. Any Joy is simply one of 2017’s finest releases yet.

Tomorrow, Mash House, Edinburgh Saturday, The Bungalow, Paisley
May 25, Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
May 26, The Art School, Glasgow
May 28, Knockengorroch Festival, Castle Douglas
Jun 10, Strange Behaviours, Tolbooth, Stirling
Jun 17, Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore Jun
23, Northern Roots Festival, Inverness
Jul 1, Kelburn Garden Party, Kelburn Castle, Largs

Any Joy is out now on Electric Honey

Visit the band's website.