SINGAPORE SLING at the Comfort Zone (480 Spadina), Monday (July 7). $10 advance, more at the door. 416-975-0909. Rating: NNNNN
Singapore Sling wants to take a shot at the dark, brooding throne no one has rightly claimed since 1985. That was the year the Jesus & Mary Chain, those 80s bad-boy brats who believed rock started with the Beach Boys and ended with the Stooges, released their near-perfect album Psychocandy.
The Reykjavik rockers aren't hiding their influences - they're flaunting them. They gladly invite the Stooges/ J&MC comparisons.
"I love those bands," says singer/songwriter Henrik Björnsson. "And you have to compare us to something. That's what everyone does. That's what I do when I buy a record. I'll tell a friend it sounds a little like this and a little like that."
Singapore Sling formed in 2000, and quickly garnered attention at Iceland's prestigious Airwaves festival. By last year they'd recorded their debut, The Curse Of Singapore Sling. Released in North America last month, it's a low-fi dronefest featuring five members who play three guitars, bass, the occasional keyboard and drums.
Then there's Siggi Shaker, whose sole mission is to play tambourine and maracas in true avant garde minimalist fashion.
"I did 8-track overdubs with Pro Tools into analog mixers, using cheap guitar effects for my vocals," comments Björnsson via cellphone from Central Park, minutes before Sonic Youth take the stage at a summer festival where Singapore Sling play the following day.
"We wanted it to sound older, like an album from the 50s or 60s."
It does. The songs are tight and the album clocks in at just 43 minutes.
"Just because you have 70 minutes available doesn't mean you have 70 minutes of good music to record. So much of what makes it these days is filler. Raw Power (the Stooges, 1973) is 34 minutes and it's perfect."
Are they as good as the Stooges and Jesus & Mary Chain? Shit, not even close. But they do have the brooding, gloomy, dark thing down pat.
The repetitive chords the Stooges played, which come off as amateurish at first, mask the primal beauty of their music. It's in that spirit that Singapore Sling play their tunes, although they sound more like J&MC without the catchy hooks.
Add Summer Garden (a mellow song that could easily pass as a lost Velvet Underground track) to the mix, put on some dark sunglasses, smoke cigs all night and the package is complete.
For their first North American tour, Singapore Sling want to break down people's preconceived notions about their country's music.
"People think all music from Iceland is inspired by our landscape and elves, that it's all quirky. But we were inspired by music from England and America.
"We're used to playing to the same crowd in Reykjavik, so we're really looking forward to coming to Canada and sweating on your stage."