Friday, March 6, 2009

Standby for Ex Norwegian Power (Pop)

Ex Norwegian, named after a Monty Python skit, play a form of highly infectious pop/rock that borrows and pulls from just about every imaginable rock n roll genre for a sound that is unique and refreshing. To call their debut album “Standby” infectious is a bit of an understatement. This Miami quartet has crafted an entire LP of songs that will be stuck in your head for days on end. To be completely honest, when I was first introduced to Ex Norwegian’s music I thought it was cool, but nothing exceptional. That feeling lasted for maybe one day before I found myself with a strong urge to listen to them again. That time I liked them a bit more. Later that day I found that urge back again, and I liked them yet a bit more. Any band that demands multiple listens to grow on me is generally well worth the time, and this is no exception. “Standby” is a stellar pop album that should be widely embraced by radio for its outstanding guitar rock and quirky vocal deliveries. Comprised of Roger Houdaille, Carolina Souto on bass, Arturo Garcia on drums, and Billie G on guitar, their influences cover a wide range from the Kinks, Lou Reed and Talking Heads to Nirvana, Cake, and Jethro Tull, and the combination of these sounds is very much Ex Norwegian.

“Fujeira in my Dreams” opens the album with simple sun soaked guitar licks and deep pounding drums. There is a respectful amount of reverb on the vocals, but not to the point of distorting the lyrics. Everything sounds crisp and jangly, just the way a power-pop album should begin. While Ex Norwegian have only been together since 2008, singer/guitarist/songwriter Roger Houdaille first wrote this song way back in ’04 with his former band, Father Bloopy. “Don’t Bother” contains a sickly sweet and irresistible melody that would make great company with Superdrag’s brightest moments. As the song says “It’s good for me and me you,” and they’re not lying. This is pop music like fine art, keeping things honest, simple, and rocking. “Something Unreal” is not a track you will soon forget. After a listen of this song, you’ll be hearing it in your head for days and weeks to come. The memorable vocal melody sinks deep, and doesn’t let up; this is their pop gem for the world, now it’s just up to the world to take notice.

“Fresh Pit” features singing from female vocalist Michelle Grand, no longer part of the band, but adds excellent texture to their ever changing sound. The guitars wind like a tamer version of Modest Mouse or Built to Spill. “Pow3rfull” is their punk rock anthem with a vocal effect that comes across sounding like sun soaked stoner legends Fu Manchu’s mid-catalog works. With punchy stop and start solos from the guitars and drums, this song is short and to the point. “Sudeki Lover” was written by Eric Hernandez of the hardcore band Capsule and features a hypnotic tribal drum pattern with darting angular guitar playing that adds an indie/prog feel that could appeal to …Trail of Dead fans. With all these influences mixed into their power-pop filter, Ex Norwegian genuinely has delivered a pure pop album that fans of hard rock can embrace.

“Add Vice” is a quirky love song of the likes that Weezer would have killed to write back in the early 90s. “Gross You” contains a strong Beach Boys influence with its vocals pushed to the forefront and mellotron accompaniment. Beautiful Miami weather must play a large part in their sound, as these songs have a strong summer quality to them, not to mention a bit of psychedelic musicianship. “Dance Trance Pants,” their second single, has a 70s glam meets The Killers vibe. An electro influenced “dance track” continues the albums evolution through genres, but I personally could have done without that one. “All Over Again” is their “prog pop” submission with plenty of shifting timings covering a lot of territory while still remaining just under the three minute mark.

The album closes on a slower note with “Sad Wonder” and “My Name is Paul,” a song Houdaille describes as, “a song to humanize the political elite class. Paul Wolfowitz (former World Bank President) and co. are a delusional bunch...and this song is a light hearted attempt at seeing the world thru their eyes.” These songs may not have the same syrupy power pop charm as the beginning of the album, but serve as a great closing point to a promising debut.

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