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REVIEWS

Kevin Mathews and Tim Nolan, joined by Ray Aziz, have a new moniker and a new release to boot. As Mathews says, Popland makes music "without pretense and without artifice." The songs are good, better than those on The Crowd's unheralded Pop album. There's a more natural flow to them, for an organic feel which the studio constructs of Pop lacked so tellingly. The drumming is spot-on, the bass is solid, and the guitar is kept in the background, letting the songs take the foreground. Mathews' plaintive vocals are perfect for the acoustic tunes which pepper the album, ranging from the unabashedly tender love songs of Distant Mirror, Here and the appropriately-titled Beautiful, to the wistfully nostalgic reminiscences of a long-gone Singapore In Past Tense. Other highlights include the fast-paced Never Liked The Beatles and There She Stands. The latter is especially noteworthy: firstly, it's the only Nolan-penned song on the album, but more importantly, it's a great song which proves that Popland have got that classic pop approach down pat. It's a bittersweet memory of a relationship gone sour, like so many are wont to do, with classic lines like "You felt your life was complete and now you feel broken/So many things have been changed, so few words have been spoken." And who hasn't felt that way before? But the obvious standouts which would attract the fans of Mathews's hard-hitting songwriting would be The Jam and Nothing On The Radio. The Jam is mild by Mathews's standards. Knowing jibes like "I was feeling lonely in a crush/At the opening sale it was such a mad rush" and the namechecking "Somewhere The Jam played In The Crowd/As I sang along I laughed out loud" hit home, perfectly capturing the ever-present ennui in the relentless urban crush that is a fact of life in Singapore. Nothing On The Radio, meanwhile, is honest and direct, no beating about the bush. Mathews launches into local radio from the get-go: "I turned on the radio/Looking for some music with a little soul/All I got was an empty sound/The kind that makes the world go round." And we all know what makes the world go round. Lucky for us, Popland don't worship at that particular altar, instead offering up a serving of some of the most honest pop songs you'll hear this year. (7.5) - Xiao Jinhong, Singapore

As wide in its scope as the "popland" map that adorns the back cover (complete with "Boys Beach" and the towns of "Difford" and "Tilbrook"), Popland's Groovy takes more than a few twists and turns and does it without compromise or apologies. It also exhibits more than a bit of talent along the way courtesy of members Kevin Mathews (who writes most all of the tunes here) and Tim Nolan. Never Liked The Beatles immediately grabs the listener and serves as a fine opener especially. Aside from the striking title, the song also benefits from a great pop chorus and a harder guitar sound. There She Stands is probably the finest electric pop moment here, though, thanks to its lovely melody and great vocal. It also serves as the only track here written by bassist Tim Nolan. On the more traditional rock and roll side is The Jam . This solid track features a great organ part in the background that adds much. Some of the brightest moments here are the more acoustic-driven numbers. Actually, much of this material is reminiscent of Big Star's earlier acoustic numbers but with the pop element turned up slightly and the folk side turned down just a little. Beautiful is one such track - a perfect melody sending it soaring. Even better is Here, where the melody is every bit as lovely but with Nolan turning in a stellar performance on his bass. Past Tense let's the acoustic guitar keep a rollicking pace and also serves as a showcase for some fine harmonies. Popland present themselves as scholars of the genre, with a solid understanding of the many ways a hook can rear its head. The exotic rhythm and jazzy feel of All Or Nothing remains catchy throughout. The closing lament, Nothing On The Radio , is a solemn number that definitely makes an impact thanks to the melody at work here. Whether looking for fun or looking to challenge their own artistic sensibilities, Popland manages to deliver throughout. They are, indeed, quite "groovy"! - Claudio Sossi, Canada

On the back of the sleeve of this CD, it says "You Are Now Entering Popland, population: 2". If you're wondering where Popland is, it's somewhere in Singapore, where Kevin Mathews and Tim Nolan have created this work of homemade charm. Mathews' greatest strength as a songwriter is that he's able to create a feeling of contentment with his acoustic guitar lines, irrespective of the emotional theme of the music and lyrics. Whether it's a tale of romantic fulfillment ("Beautiful" and "Here") or regret ("Distant Mirrors"), one feels as though the songs have reached a special place. Don't let the acoustic guitars fool you; these guys can rock out as well, as evidenced by the buzzy delight "Never Liked The Beatles," a witty piece of irony with lines like "One man's Sergeant Pepper Is Another Man's Smile". Other excellent tracks are "The Jam", which fans of The Minders will love because of its cheery late '60s cum '90s pop sensibilities, and the Nolan penned "There She Stands," a very pretty, catchy, harmony filled paean to an object of unrequited affection. The album ends with the lamentation "Nothing On The Radio," a sentiment that many of us share. Popland is a very solid effort as is, but it will leave you hoping that next time around these guys can get some more production behind them and really show what they can do.- David Bash, USA

ZUGER PRESSE

Who ever thought that good popmusic is only a thing of the western world will be surprised by the Singaporean duo Popland. Led by singer/songwriter Kevin Mathews and the expatriate Englishman Tim Nolan they create harmonic popmusic that does not have to hide from the competitors from England and America. On the contrary, te 10 songs on their "Groovy" album are mostly economical instrumentation with the focus on good songwriting. What else does a good song need except a guitar and a voice? These reductions to a minimum allows also a free view to the warm and clear voice of Kevin Mathews. In the power-pop-song "There She Stands" the guitars flow like they were played by the Byrds. The folky touched popsongs "Here", "Distant Mirror" and "Nothing On The Radio" remind you of Simon & Garfunkel's melodic beauty. Not so serious should the listener take "Never Liked The Beatles" since "Groovy" includes also references to the Fab Four. All in all does Popland keep what it promises: Groovy songs from Popland. - Robert Pally, Switzerland (translated from the German)

The Internet has supposedly turned this planet into a village, mix that up with today' s POP community and you either have a truly international POP revolution or at least a global network of POP geeks. The worldwide aspect is truly vindicated today with the arrival of POPLAND from Singapore. POPLAND are singer/songwriter/guitarist Kevin Mathews with bassist Tim Nolan. Though often recorded in a rather basic manner, Kevin's best songs still shine through: The irresistible chorus of Never liked the Beatles still rings out through the murky sound. There she stands is more successful in it's entirety, somehow it all comes together for this melodic Beau Brummels sounding number. The other songs range from acoustic numbers, including the sad Distant Mirrors, to light, frothy and slightly funky tunes, which recall the Postcard sound from the early 80's. This album, though not spectacular, showcases the emergence of a promising songwriter with a pure and delightful voice. When is the last time that you had the chance to purchase a POP record from Singapore? - Robin Wills, UK

GO POP!

Welcome to Popland, a Groovy place full of sweeping melodies, and coastlines of guitars 
that by turn jangle gently under soaring, sweeping harmonies and jut resolutely through 
lashing rhythm figures shaped by thrashing, crashing drums and the pulsing, throbbing 
bass.
During our tour we will visit lovely traditional pop songs such as Beautiful, a place 
characterized by gentle guitar and wistful vocals. Weíll meet the tough and (hopefully) 
ironic Never Liked The Beatles, and relax on the jangly plains of There She Stands and 
All or Nothing. In fact, all ten destinations in the brochure are worth visiting.
The people of Popland have outdone themselves in order to make your stay as pleasant and 
enjoyable as you can imagine. The investment in this journey is certainly worth making. 
The road sign as you enter says "Popland - population 2", be we confidently expect a 
population explosion. - Jimm Cowburn, Australia

Elysium Fanzine

It took me 6 songs until I realized who it is that Popland's mastermind,
singer/songwriter Kevin Mathews' vocals keep reminding me of - it's Grant
Hart (of all people)! It's just that the musical background to this vocal
similarity (more like the tone of voice than anything else) couldn't be much
further from Husker Du's violent and chaotic buzz guitar massacre - Mr
Mathews' voice is the centerpiece of Popland's grown-up and sophisticated,
heavily acoustic and sort of 'counter-alternative' clean-pop sound and the
association seemed nothing short of contradictory (although some of Hart's
work with Nova Mob and as a solo artist is acoustic and not that far from
the music on this CD).
Popland, which is basically just Mathews and bassist Tim Nolan helped by a
drummer Ray Aziz, come from Singapore, but they surely aren't just a
curiosity act from an exotic pop country - they are up there with the most
interesting rising names in the international pop scene. Mathews is
evidently a gifted songwriter and superb singer and even though I'd like to
hear these songs with meatier arrangements and a less demo-ish production
(this is a very DIY-spirited release, which is also a positive thing), they
are already very catchy and melodically rich the way they are on this CD.
The Popland sound is mostly from the softer and more 'adult' and
major-labely end of the pop scope (think Rundgren, the Beatles and unplugged
Gladhands for instance) with even some entertainment/jazzy shades, but there
are also a few more powerpoppy tunes, such as the opener "Never Like The
Beatles", "The Jam" and my personal fave, 60's-evoking and the only
Nolan-penned song on the album, "There She Stands". If you appreciate solid
and mature songwriting (who wouldn't?), here's a ditty! - Mikko Lappalainen, Finland

Itís always a delicious surprise indeed when it turns out that friends, fans, 
writers and/or supporters-in-general of a specific (musical) genre or cause 
turn out to be amongst their favored idiomís most exemplary practitioners as 
well! Such is more than the case with world-renowned pop enthusiast Kevin 
Mathews. From his virtual home base in deepest darkest Singapore, I kid you 
not, Kevinís been championing -- all over the Internet and then some -- his 
special kinda pet sounds for many years now. And now heís put his vocal 
chords where his mouth is! Alongside partner-in-pop Tim Nolan, GROOVY is a 
more than delightful mixture of both out-and-out hop-rockiní treasures 
("There She Stands" is no less than Spector-by-way-of-Searchers, complete 
with SoCal64-styled vocals) and gentle, acoustic-guitar-propelled wonders 
("Here," "Past Tense" and especially the Townshend-esque "Beautiful" are the 
kind of powerfully understated works only Phil Angotti and Scott McCarl seem 
to excel at these days). Donít for a second believe it, then, when this disc 
kicks off with a blasphemous little ditty called "Never Liked The Beatles": 
Popland DO wallow waist-deep in all things Fab, and as a result have produced 
a record which can stand proudly alongside either of those "Yellow Submarine" 
albums! - Gary Pig Gold, USA



 

 

(c) 1999-2000 KAMCO Records kevin@powerofpop.com

Digital imaging by Tim Nolan limnolan@pacific.net.sg