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"Like its delightful packaging, Popland have delivered a musical journey that covers tons of ground, but never once sticks to the same (middle of the) road, less its impact and interest overstay its very welcome." 

Gary 'Pig' Gold, noted musician (Ghost Rockets), label owner (To M'Lou Music) and journalist (his well-known "PIGSHIT" column) included Groovy in his Top Ten albums of 1999.  

This critical breakthrough marked a significant milestone in the long and winding road that leads to Popland. Kevin Mathews and Tim Nolan may have earned a measure of the recognition their craft deserves but it is truly their love of pop music that keeps them going. 

Being based in Singapore has not deterred Popland in the task of touching as many like-minded people with the power of pop. To that end, Popland brings into year 2001, Action! 

Together with drummer Ray Aziz, Mathews and Nolan have concocted a heady, eclectic mix of styles and tastes, keeping things interesting in an 11-track collection of songs that true blue music lovers will be hard pressed to ignore. 

Well, someone like Art Herman.  

The President of San Francisco-based Zip Records certainly agrees and has licensed Action! for distribution in the USA, Canada & Australia, a notable distinction for a Singapore band. Zip Records specializes in international pop and to that end, has signed bands like Dorian Gray (Sweden), Thirst (UK) & The Chevelles (Australia). Popland joins this distinguished list and brings to Zip Records a different musical dimension to an already exciting roster. 

Kevin Mathews picks up the story: - 

In mid-1999, Tim & I decided to record three songs, which had been previously featured on the Modest demo cassette (1995), in order to capture the 'live' feel & excitement that we had with drummer Ray Aziz. 

These songs - The Hip Song, Hold On, Feel the Same Way - were duly recorded at TNT Studio and together with Fallen Angels (recorded for Edwin Yeo's short film of the same name) formed the basis of the Popland Action! Sampler that made the rounds of a select group of US indie pop labels, whom I had made contact with due to my role as a music reviewer. 

This resulted in an invitation (thank you, Mick Chorba) to contribute to Facedown Records' tribute to the Replacements and an indication of interest from Art Herman of Zip Records.  

Thus, in the case of the former, we pulled together our collective talents to produce a punk-lounge version of Swingin' Party which made the cut on the recently released compilation. 

As for the latter, that glimmer of hope from Zip spurred us to complete the album, recording another seven songs in the process. The range of material from the funky Meat from the Sky to the dreamy Here indicate that creative juices were indeed flowing. 

Thematically, Action! is primarily about trust & betrayal. The centerpiece, one song - Whatever Happened to You? - broken up into three parts details a failed relationship and its aftermath. The other songs take their cue from this expression, whether it is disguises and false faces (The Hip Song), chauvinistic assertions of possession (Hold On), a hope of fidelity (Feel the Same Way), a declaration of faith (Here) and a plea of desire (Meat from the Sky). 

Action! derives its impetus from the axiom "Actions speak louder than words." This philosophy sums up our approach to the recording and ultimate selling of this new album. It sometimes seems that there is too much talk in the Singapore music scene and not enough deeds to back it up.  

Let Action! speak for itself…  


Pop Matters

One of Our Own

Reviewing your friends' and acquaintances' CDs is often a tricky thing. It's great when their disc turns out to be a wonderful event, but other times, when the music isn't quite up to snuff or isn't as good as you may have hoped, what do you say? Probably most of us often pay a kind compliment and then move along, hoping our pals won't come back to us later on with someone and else and point out the fact that we said yes, indeed their tunes were good. Such a taxing ordeal.

So here we are with Popland's disc Action! For those of you who don't know, Popland is none other than PopMatters' very own Kevin Mathews, along with Tim Nolan and Ray Aziz. I first became familiar with Kevin's pop music reviews through the site, where I am also a contributor. I checked out his website, the Power of Pop and then got knee-deep in Mathews' musings over here on our beloved site. So I have to say I was honestly surprised when I found out that Popland was Kevin's band.

Hopefully by now, Mr. Mathews has sweat his fair share of bullets (unless of course he just skipped to this point -- no cheating, Kev) over wondering what I think of his music, especially after that opening paragraph. Well, let me just say that Kevin's brand of music comes as no surprise to me. For someone who loves pop music (and that's "pop music" in the most respectable sense of the term, not "pop" as in "poop") as much as I know Kevin does, his own 11 tunes included within Action are a very nice mix of all sorts of great pop, ranging from garage-like rave ups to more sentimental and emotional singer/songwriter fare. Plus the CD sports some pretty damn cool sleeve art from head to toe.

First, I want to talk about my most favorite cuts here. These would be "Dumb Thing", "Hold On", and ". . . To You?" "Dumb Thing" has one of the catchiest pop rock melodies I've heard all year long. It's one of those songs I wished I had penned, and honestly reminds me of a couple of things I have come up with in the past on a good day. Great chords, a great bridge, and one of those melodies that kills you the first time you hear it and brings you to your knees, needing to hear it a million more times.

"Hold On" kicks off with a snarled "yeah", three great chords, some tight 'n loose drums (courtesy of Aziz, and a knotty, funky bass line thanks to Mr. Nolan. And what a bass solo! Yeesh. Short and sweet. Or as my idol Mr. Lou Reed would say, "short and delicious". And then there's ". . . To You?" which I swear sounds like a fucking great update of "Sympathy for The Devil". Nice piano, great vocals, and a whole gospel groove going onthat seems straight out of left field but caps off the album perfectly. I dig it.

In between and all around these great tunes are other tight numbers like "The Hip Song" that features Mathews' great voice doing a double lead thing while he also contributes some terrific backing vocals. Some more great piano work in this one, too. Then there's the touching "Whatever . . ." that uncovers some raw emotions, the floating "Feel the Same Way", and " . . . Happened . . . " which sounds like some refugee from either the mid-'70s or early '80s. Doesn't matter, really. It would work in either time effectively, and sounds terrific through and through. The electric piano part reminds me a bit of the one from "James" on Billy Joel's Turnstiles album, although that weird choir part that comes out of nowhere (Is that a synth choir? If so, it sounds absolutely gorgeous.) makes me think of . . . well, I don't know. But I like it all just the same.

Kevin's own guitar work is straight to the point. No notes wasted, no obnoxious solos, nothing out of place. Yet at the same time it's loose enough to sound casual and "unrehearsed" (as in, it sounds spontaneous and rockin' a-plenty). So, dammit, count me in as a fan of Popland. Action was quite the pleasant surprise, but at the same time I guess I should have known that Mathews would have created something so likable, given the general huge list of great music that he tends to enjoy and review. So here's to you, Kevin, on a job well done. I look forward to hearing more. Indeed, you guys and gals out there should bend an ear to these sounds as well. Jason Thompson


In the three long years since their debut long-player *Groovy,* Kevin Mathews and Tim Nolan, d.b.a. Popland, have obviously been honing their melodic craft, not to mention broadening their three-chord horizons quite some. For *Action!,* whilst still brimming along the kinda Kinky guitar parade which made their previous work bash and pop itself silly, reveals a proud maturity within the duo's songcraft and arranging skills. The result? Several stunning examples of deep, dreamful balladry which culminate in the circa *Walls And Bridges* era Lennon underscoring "Fallen Angels" and the wholly Rubinoo-worthy "Feel The Same Way." "Dumb Thing" also mines the latter's classic Beserkley skinny-neck vibe, though deftly upping the tempo towards the disturb-the-neighbors level, while "Hold On" simply *begs* to be hauled out upon the nearest concert stage before a room full of sweaty under-agers. Such great big audio dynamite also powers "The Future" (a totally, yes, futuristic retro-popper which sends Ed Wood Jr. careening towards *The Dark Side Of The Moon*), and one must then surely sit tight straight through for *Action!*'s concluding mock-drum duel too, you know. Among many other things then, this disc proves Pop *can* grow up. Because, you see, Popland itself certainly has. Gary "Pig" Gold


There’s a handful of scribes out there (Ken Sharp, John Borack, Gary “Pig” Gold, and me, to name a few) hawking their wares as wannabe rock stars, for better or worse. KEVIN MATHEWS is one of the better ones, being one-half of this duo. If you believe the accompanying hype that came with the CD, he’s been a pioneer of sorts on the Singapore music scene with his Richard X. Heyman style of tunesmithing. Action! Has an amateur twill to it, a bit clunky here and there, but that makes it endearing in spots. “The Hip Song” is suitably nasty, a diatribe against those who live or die depend on whether the doorman likes the look of them enough to let them into the party. Being a sentimental sap myself, my favourite is the ballad “Feel the Same Way,” plaintively sung by Mathews as if he really means it. Brad Harvey  

Not Lame

It's been 3 years since Popland released their highly regarded CD "Groovy" that reminded many folks of an acousticy version of Chewy Marble. This is confident outing that has plenty of catchy and infectious melodies that defy easy classification. Lots of warm acoustic colorings, funky and bouncy melodies and an unpretentious, straightforwardly delivered vocals that times strain in upper registers but hold strong. The jazzy drumming and tendency for the open-chords found on their debut yield a difficult to classify sound and cherry picks, carefully and subtlety, a long list of possibly influences to argue, but none convincingly as Popland really sound like few other bands, thankfully. "Feel The Same Way" is one of their finest and most lovely songs. Brimming with wide-eyed optimism and cheery, upbeat melodies, Popland and Zip Records are to be cheered for embracing such enjoyable hard-to-classify music! Bruce Brodeen

Singapore trio featuring Fufkin scribe Kevin Mathews. Mathews shows that he can walk the walk as well as he talks the talk, with strong vocals on this versatile pop-rock album. In fact, knowing Mathews' taste, I expected something more Beatley, but this shows off some melodic rock that rocks, contrasted with some mellow acoustic pop. For example, "Dumb Thing" sounds like Husker Du's Grant Hart taking a crack at a power pop tune. The centerpiece of the disc is a trilogy of tunes spread through the disc titled "Whatever…", "…Happened…", "…To You?", which are really tender and affecting. The reggae flavored tune "Meat From The Sky" is a really nice change of pace, particularly with its middle eight, which sounds like Gary Numan gone dub. Mike Bennett 


Kevin Mathews and Tim Nolan have come a long way, since Mathews days as Watchmen, to the Crowd and now Popland. Action! is the duo's second release as Popland, following 1999's Groovy.

But Popland, to many, have always been an out-and-out pop band. Action! however seems to be an attempt to move away from this. Two major changes are found on this album. Though the album is still based on Mathews and Nolan's abilities to come up with great pop songs, they have added a strong rock feel to their music. The distorted guitars and the heavy drumbeats, courtesy of Ray Aziz, change the band's soundscape, which is most evident on Here (the "pop version" was found on the Groovy album).

The second difference is that much more thought seems to have been put into the structure of the songs - they are well crafted. The band has worked in more keyboards and Nolan's more active on guitars, thus adding more variety to the music. For instance, Nolan's solo on Hold On gives the song a kick-ass rock 'n' roll feel. The keyboards, though, do remind us of those found on The Crowd's Pop album. But the difference here is that there seems to be an added maturity in the sound.

Perhaps also, the band's improvements are a result of more emotions in the songs found on Action!, Titles such as Whatever Happened To You? and Hold On show the more personal approach the band has taken into their song writing. As a result of the angst in the songs, Mathews has taken pains to be more varied and that helps to keep each song fresh and exciting. Tan Weiming  


"Action!" is the second album of the Singaporean duo Popland lead by singer and songwriter Kevin Mathews (a Singaporean) and the emigrated Englishman Tim Nolan. Noticeable at first is the better and more balanced sound quality in the comparison to the debut "Groovy". Besides Kevin Mathews has improved as a songwriter. Kevin's strengths lie in the writing of melancholy pop songs. For that he mostly does not need much equipment. Therefore slower numbers like "Whatever", "Happened" (despite the cheesy keys) or "Fallen Angels" stand out . Mathews is not that good in writing more uptempo songs. "Hold on" and "Meat from the sky" for example belong to the weaker tracks. Both don't have interesting ideas, especially for the intro. They are only saved by the good singing harmonies of Kevin. Exception is the rocking "Dumb thing". Funny, beautiful and the best track on "Action" is "The future", which with its cheap instrumentation sounds like a low budget Beach Boys Song. If one refrains from small unevenness "Action!" surely is a round thing - particularly from the side of the singing! Robert Pally - translated from the German

Splendid Zine

Generally speaking, Singaporeans don't usually spring to mind when you're thinking of rock music. That's why Action is such a huge surprise. Popland's diverse influences are shared by virtually every North American pop-rock act; "Dumb Thing," for example, sounds like lower-rent Ramones, "The Hip Song" sounds like an early '90s HORDE band, and "Whatever..." is a beautiful acoustic ballad. I'd probably dismiss Action! without much thought if it had come from Brooklyn, but that Singapore return address earns it extra credit. Even so, there are a few weak spots here. "Happened," in particular, recalls some of the worst power ballads of the 1980s, while "To You" is commits the sin of sounding like a soulless vocal jazz group. Perhaps in Singapore, that's not quite as offensive as it is here. At any rate, Action! is an enjoyable if unabashedly mainstream-leaning album, proving that music really is a universal language. Matthew Pollesel


(c) 2001 KAMCO Records