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Ex Norwegian — Hue Spotting
(Beyond Before BB111, 2020, CD / DL)
Ex Norwegian — Spotting Hues
(Beyond Before, 2020, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2020-06-05
Ex Norwegian is a band that has touched on a number of styles during its more than ten years of existence, and with Hue Spotting, they are in full-on neo-psychedelic mode, presenting a tasty set of ten trippy melodic tunes that pay close attention to the classics of the late 60s while maintaining a fresh sound. Right off the bat, “Fear Backwards” gives us a driving drum beat, twanging guitars, and vocals treated with a phase shift, not to mention Mellotron-like keyboards. There are some more modern keyboard sounds as well, but they don’t detract from the psychedelic mood. The style called power pop that emerged in the 70s could be seen as a development from 60s psychedelic rock, and Ex Norwegian blends the two seamlessly on songs like “Comfort Sands,” which has a charming melody played on a melodica in several sections. Every song is fun, full of great melodies, interesting arrangements, and solid playing. In keeping with the standards of the psychedelic era, there’s even one tune featuring an extended guitar solo, with echoes and wah-wah in evidence. Anyone who enjoys upbeat rock music should enjoy this album even if Nazz and the Strawberry Alarm Clock aren’t on their radar.
As a companion to Hue Spotting, Ex Norwegian also has Spotting Hues, an album full of covers of actual vintage tunes, mostly pretty obscure ones. From the 60s, we get tracks from July, Apple, The Nice, The End, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Billy Nicholls, and Nick Garrie; the 70s are represented by Fairfield Parlour and Gene Clark; and then there’s a version of “Happily Unemployed,” a 1982 song by Gruppo Sportivo that’s done as if it had been from the 60s instead of ska-inflected New Wave. All are worthy, and several may in fact be the first times these songs have ever been covered — it’s not as if there are many people who have heard the source material, let alone learned how to play them. The Nice’s “Cry of Eugene” is especially fun, and certainly has better vocals than the original. On a musical level, this album of covers is every bit as enjoyable as its companion of originals, and could even serve as a jumping of point to explore some super-obscure corners of music history. I’d recommend Hue Spotting as the main dish, with Spotting Hues if you have room for dessert.
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