Local band Ex-Norwegian's name doesn't make much sense — we're not talking about legitimate Scandinavian ex-patriots here, after all. But consider it an improvement over ringleader Roger Houdaille's former nom de plume, Father Bloopy. Fortunately, there's reason enough to forgive Houdaille for his unfortunate choice of monikers; it doesn't diminish his melodic prowess or his ability to initiate a rousing performance from his collaborators. Consequently, this new trio — Houdaille (vocals, guitar, mellotron, synths), Carolina Souto (bass), and Arturo Garcia (drums, percussion, vocals) — makes its mark with a stirring debut, Standby, recently released on the indie label Dying Van Gogh. The record is chock-full of exuberant, exhilarating performances and an unerring pop sensibility that's both brash and irresistible.
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In truth, Standby isn't so much a variation from Houdaille's Father Bloopy guise as it is a bold extension, given its more assertive stance and modern rock regimen. The staccato rhythms of "Fujeira In My Dreams," the unrelenting pace of "Pow3rfull," and the steady stomp and surge of "Dance Trance Pants" all testify to the band's revved-up delivery and sonic savvy. What's equally impressive is Ex-Norwegian's ability to flirt with a radio-ready stance, be it on the seemingly pop-perfect "Sad Wonder," the buoyant refrains of "Fresh Pit," or the percolating "Add Vice," which, coincidentally or not, retraces the sound of the soul classic "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted." With those kinds of credentials, Standby can be recommended without reservation.