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From Iceland, rock without the weirdness

The band comes from Iceland, but the members of Singapore Sling neither invented their own language, as their countrymen in Sigur Ros did, nor wear clothing that resembles dead waterfowl, as countrywoman Bjork did with her swan dress at the 2001 Academy Awards ceremony.

Singapore Sling is enigmatic in its own right, though. The group displays a jumble of musical influences on The Curse of Singapore Sling, the band's debut.

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Hints of the Jesus and Mary Chain and old-school Lou Reed blend into something that sounds a bit like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at times, and like trippy surf music for hip vampires at others.

It takes a listen or two for textures to emerge from the dark, reverb-drenched minor-key arrangements, but when they do, the songs become oddly compelling, the kind of stuff you'll want to hear again for reasons you can't quite explain.

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The tunes feature an abundance of churning, fuzzed-out guitar parts, which work well over the distant, echoey riff on "Nuthin' Ain't Bad," and fade ominously into the background on "No Soul Man." The songs don't rock as much as they brood, but the raw, guitar-powered momentum of the album is broken just once, with "Summer Garden." The faux-psychedelic tune finds frontman Hendrik Bjornsson warbling slightly off-key, sounding a bit too much like Lou Reed on "Satellite of Love."

Bjornsson sounds seductive in a foreboding way on other tracks, though, including the opening song, "Overdriver," which also features a howling, visceral guitar solo.

It's not clear what the band means by calling the album The Curse of Singapore Sling: The ability to write songs like these can't be anything but a blessing.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Singapore Sling

The Curse of Singapore Sling (Stinky Records) ***


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