Thursday, December 15, 2011

An Ex Norwegian Sketch Is Born Again

For all intents and purposes, Ex Norwegian was dead. The band had been together since 2008 and enjoyed modest success on college radio stations. They were especially well received after their single Something Unreal became a hit on MySpace and CMJ took notice.

But then it happened. Their momentum evaporated when their 2009 full-length album, Standby, failed to ignite a few sparks, even though most critics gave it some acclaim. Soon their upward trajectory came to a halt and band members called it a day.

But then something unexpected happened. Their self-produced second album, Sketch, was released on a shoestring budget and the critics had mostly forgotten them. But to the indie label Dying Van Gogh, Sketch was a lively introduction.

Ex Norwegian finds a second life after their split. 

Second chances never come easy in the music industry. But bassist /vocalist and de facto leader Roger Houdaille was never one to pass on leading any charge. With the re-release of Sketch to pave the way, he was all in.

Never mind that Houdaille freely admits that he was finished with the band. The timing to try again seemed perfect. Unfortunately, it wasn't so perfect for everyone.

Most fans know that Sketch features Houdaille with bassist/vocalist Nina Souto and drummer/guitarist Arturo Garcia. But joining Houdaille in the new incarnation of Ex Norwegian is Michelle Grand (vocals), Alex Ibanez (drums, vocals) and Lucas Queiroz (guitar, vocals).

Don't get too comfortable or used to the names. Houdaille has described this second chance as “a very liquid lineup.” The members may change, plus or minus, at any given time. That's not the only change.

Sketch finds the new band in fine form and trying out a variety of styles. 

Musically, lyrically, and vocally Sketch is leap years ahead of Standby. There’s power pop, rolling acoustic, surf rock, and a bit of other styles thrown in for good measure. The result is a quirky album that has a flow all its own.

Acting On An Island marries ska, rock and jazz to create a moody sound. You’re Elastic All Over Me is glorious pop punctuated by an infectious chorus. The rocking Girl With the Moustache is said to be inspired by Hole.

Turn Left has a big rock sound that would do Pete Townshend proud and Jet Lag’s distortion-heavy sound nicely complements Houdaille’s upbeat vocals. It's here it becomes clear Houdaille has evolved as a performer, making Sketch the title but not a description. It is thoughtfully put together. 

The album is quirky, fun, and eclectic power pop that would fit nicely in the 90s if it were not quite so sophisticated. And for anyone listening to Ex Norwegian for the first time, you'll hear that they have that special ability to shift gears from lo fi to power rock without missing a beat.

Houdaille is a pretty busy guy these days. In addition to fronting Ex Norwegian, he’s also the bass player in Ed Hale and The Transcendence, which is also on the Dying Van Gogh label.

Sketch By Ex Norwegian Pops In With A 5.0 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The Florida-based band features no Scandinavians, Norwegian or otherwise. The band takes its name from a Monty Python skit. If you have a chance to catch their live shows, Ex Norwegian will pull out all the stops — sometimes playing a 30-song set if the mood and the crowd seem right.

Sketch by Ex Norwegian is up on iTunes. You can also find the CD at Barnes & Noble and the album at Amazon. The band is already working on their next album, House Music, tentatively set for a 2012 release date.
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