Iceland’s Singapore Sling have been around since the beginning of the decade, yet despite having released four full-length albums (six if you count two seven-song mini albums) the group has remained strangely under the radar. Culling their name from an infamous Greek B-movie (not the famous gin-and-juice cocktail), the group brings to mind the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Cramps, and 1960s garage rock (the band’s 2002 debut, The Curse of Singapore Sling, contains a fascinating reconstruction of The Standells’ classic “Dirty Water”). At the least, Singapore Sling should have reached the stature of similarly-inclined outfits such as The Raveonettes, The Warlocks, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Frontman and main songwriter Henrik Bjornsson is easily as talented as the leaders of the aforementioned.
This was not to be, however. Despite an appearance at South By Southwest in 2003 and the release of their first two albums on American imprint Stinky Records, the band failed to make an impact on the US market – and seemingly elsewhere, too. Subsequent efforts, such as Taste The Blood of Singapore Sling (Sheptone/12 Tonar, 2005), Perversity, Desperation and Death (8mm, 2009), as well as a best-of compilation, The Curse, The Life, The Blood (8mm, 2007), were released on obscure European imprints (my wife had to email the band to find some of these releases, as we couldn’t find them anywhere online). The brand new Never Forever appears courtesy of small UK indie Outlier Records.
This latest album is a bit more subdued and darker in places than much of the band’s previous work. Perhaps it is appropriate that the album was released on Friday the 13th! While one can hear some of the group’s usual trademark influences, the overall vibe is moody and desperate, enhanced by booming Bo Diddley-flavored beats and ghostly, hypnotic drones, not unlike classic Krautrock or pioneering NYC art rockers Suicide. Never Forever opens with “The Nothing Inside,” a fuzzy, skull splitting rocker that holds its own with the best of the Singapore Sling’s back catalog. It is quickly followed by slower and scuzzier numbers like “Freaks,” the eerie and hypnotic “Tunnel Vision,” and the masterful “Sleep,” the latter conjuring up a similar slow burning dirty blues vibe to a pair of The Stooges’ Raw Power classics “Gimme Danger” and “Penetration.” The effortless “Take” is a perfect pop single that breaks up the tension a bit, but the overriding theme on Never Forever, as exemplified so well on the stunning near instrumental title track, is one of glorious desperation.