Singapore Sling - Never Forever

(Previously published by Skyscraper Magazine)

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.


Doing it Old School

The man on the left is Steve Moneghetti from Australia who was a 2:08 marathoner back in the day and still a 30:00 10K runner in his mid-forties. He is also the originator of what I think is the most genius bang for the buck stress workout a distance runner can do. The so called Moneghetti fartlek consists of surges of 2 x :90, 4 x :60, 4 x :30 and 4 x :15 with equal time recoveries. The key to the workout is how hard you push the 'easy' segments. I hadn't done this workout in a while, but today I laced up the racing flats and after a 3 mile easy warm up lit it up for 20 minutes. On paper it doesn't sound so hard, but if you hit the surges at 5K effort and push the recoveries, it feels almost like a race effort. Today, I covered 3.25 miles in 20 minutes on a marked mile path, hitting splits of 6:08, 6:10, 6:10. This means I was probably doing my 5K surges at 5:40-5:50 and the 'easy' portions at 6:30 give or take,  so really not so easy. As a point of reference, when I was breaking 17 for 5K a few years ago I could hit the 3-mile mark in this workout in high 17's/low 18s, so I'm getting there. A few weeks ago I did a similar stress workout of 10 x :60 on / :60 off and was 28 seconds slower at 3 miles than I was today. I recommend this workout if you want to bring on the pain.

For the week I hit 55 miles, mainly easy distance outside of today's workout and a session of 5 x mile w/ 2:00 recoveries on Tuesday where I started about 1:00 slower per mile than current 5K pace and dropped 15 seconds per rep. Next up for me race wise is a 5K on Labor Day and I'm guessing I should hit about 17:20 - 17:30 nice weather permitting.


Beady Eye - Different Gear, Still Speeding

(Previously published by Skyscraper Magazine)

Beady Eye is, of course, four-fifths of the final Oasis lineup – never mind that the missing fifth happens to be principal songwriter Noel Gallagher! While it is true that after the first few Oasis albums Noel allowed (probably somewhat reluctantly) for token songwriting contributions from his lead vocalist brother Liam, as well as guitarist Gem Archer (formerly of Heavy Stereo) and bass player Andy Bell (ex-Ride), Oasis was clearly always Noel’s gig. That said, Liam really stepped up in the songwriting department on Oasis’ final album, 2008′s Dig Out Your Soul (Big Brother/Reprise), writing two of the best songs on that record: the lush, Lennon-esque ballad “I’m Outta Time” and the explosive “Ain’t Got Nothin’,” which bordered on balls out punk rock. Perhaps Liam’s emergence as a songwriter was the final nail in the Oasis coffin?

As an album, Different Gear, Still Speeding isn’t anywhere close to being in the same league as the legendary first two Oasis albums, 1994′s Definitely Maybe (Creation/Epic) and 1995′s (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (Creation/Epic). Nevertheless, the best material here holds its own with the rest of that group’s back catalog. The opener “Four Letter Word” is a defiant diatribe (probably directed at Noel, as the brothers Gallagher are no longer on speaking terms), highlighted by a brief yet-enticing opening interlude that sounds straight outta’ “Live And Let Die.” The song is a high octane guitar attack, similar in feel to punkier Oasis numbers like “Bring It On Down,” “Fade Away,” and “(It’s Good) To Be Free), and it sports primetime Liam vocals, in which he virtually spits out the lyric “nothing lasts forever” in disgust.  “The Roller” is an amazing epic, part The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” and part John Lennon’s “Instant Karma,” with Liam’s vocals soaring over the band’s stunning orchestrated sound – definitely one of Liam Gallagher’s career highlights. “Three Ring Circus” is nearly as great, recalling Lennon’s angrier solo records. If The Beatles references laced throughout the songs weren’t enough, one of the better tracks on Different Gear is actually called “Beatles and Stones,” though it blatantly steals the riff from The Who’s “My Generation”! As on “Four Letter Word,” Liam is full of bravado here, proclaiming he’s “going to stand the test of time like Beatles and Stones.”

While Beady Eye falls short on a few tracks, especially the bordering on-painful “Hey Jude” pastiche “Wigwam” and the corny Little Richard/Chuck Berry-like 1950s-style rocker “Bring the Light,” Different Gear, Still Speeding is, for the most part, a winner and something that any Oasis or John Lennon fan will want in their collection.


Getting there

Had my second 50 mile week in a row and the workouts are starting to kick in. Feeling good every day and starting to finally feel race fit. Had my best race of the summer on Wednesday in the Classic at Mastick cross country race in Mastick Woods. Racing mainly against high school runners (plus some college kids), I finished 35th in a field of 250 and was the second master after my teammate Damon Blackford. Time was slow but that's cross country -- it was a pretty challenging course mostly on rocky trails. The effort was really good and I felt strong and in control the whole time and was always passing people throughout the race. I have about 4 months to get in great shape for Seattle (Club Nationals Cross Country) and I need to now that the ticket has been bought. :-) Next race is going to be the Octoberfest 5K in Berea on Labor Day. I usually do the Northcoast Challenge 5 miler that weekend, but Bella and I have a wedding to go to, so it's a no go this year. The beer race sounds fun though and it will be nice to see where I'm at for 5K on the roads compared to the last time I raced the distance in June.


Gold-Bears - Are you Falling In Love?

 (Previously published by Skyscraper Magazine)

When I heard an MP3 of Gold-Bears’ infectious “Record Store” for the first time, I assumed that the group had to be from Ireland or the north of England. With their menacing buzzsaw guitars and a vocalist who sounded like a cross between The Undertones’ Feargal Sharkey, Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley, and David Gedge of The Wedding Present, these guys just couldn’t have hailed from anywhere else. But what do you know? Gold-Bears are Anglophiles from Atlanta, Georgia, who, according to their All Music Guide bio, bonded over a mutual love for The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, and The Wedding Present.

While I can hear some of those influences on Gold-Bears’ stellar Slumberland Records debut album, Are You Falling In Love? (vocalist/guitarist Jeremy Underwood’s lyrics have a bitter yet humorous quality to them, quite reminiscent to those of Morrissey or the aforementioned Gedge), sonically the band sounds more like a cross between high octane late 1970s UK punk-pop and some elements from the classic C86 sound, namely jangly guitar and plenty of feedback. A more jaded and mischievous Pains of Being Pure At Heart, if you’re looking for a contemporary measuring stick.

Are You Falling In Love? opens with “Record Store,” which provides a joyous rush reminiscent to The Undertones’ classic “Teenage Kicks,” including classic bordering on over dramatic Morrissey-like word play to boot: “You saved my life from the backdoor of a crowded record store.” The even faster paced “All Those Years” and “So Natural” follow, and by then the listener should be in a sugar rush state, jumping around the room. The introspective title track provides some breathing room and, in addition to being a fantastic song, it’s another Underwood lyrical gem, opening with the following gem: “‘Fuck my life’ you sent in a text last night”!

From this point on, Are You Falling Love? does an excellent job of combining faster paced punky numbers with more reserved material. “Totally Called It” holds its own with “Record Store” for the album’s best single (so to speak), heightened with a Smiths meets shoegaze guitar frenzy near the end. Meanwhile, poignant numbers like “Xmas Song,” “Besides You,” and “Yeah, Tonight” provide ample evidence that Underwood may have a future as a novelist if he ever tires of music.  Underwood cannot be praised enough for his sharp, observant songwriting, which combines elements of nostalgia, regret, and hope without ever being even remotely clich├ęd. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so impressed with an album’s lyric sheet.


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