The second best thing about the Hangmen is the way they make redundant a lot of the crappier notions of uptight rock criticism. You don’t need to be original to make great music – much of ‘Singapore Slingers’ sounds like classic surf rock of pretty much any time period since the ’60s, digging on the pure joy of keeping that particularly twangy flame burning. You can stick your spade into the past’s grave as shamelessly as you like as long as your end result creams pants. Another thing to potentially annoy the dead inside is that the Hangmen dose their surf with a hefty slug of braindead garage riffing, head-down and unashamed of sounding like every guitar chugger from Chuck Berry to Oasis. It’s all played for the beer buzz fun of shaking your body parts in the company of other attractive humans, and if you’re anti- that you should probably take your custom elsewhere. The Hangmen are from Swansea, and Swansea has great waves.
The best thing about the Hangmen would probably be their music then. ‘Singapore Slingers’ is a grand half hour of power, ten songs of crisply-produced heft that strut with fine peacock style. Obviously, they have a song that sounds a bit like ‘Miserlou’, but ‘The Headhunter’ wins by having a cooler name, and by regularly dropping into a double time hoedown section, with dollops of that queasy surf organ slathered on top. It’s a tactic shared by the opening track ‘Shrunken Skull Stomp’, where galloping, almost Quo-like guitars knock back and forth against spidery surf lines, before a quite brilliant almost-middle eight section crashes in from nowhere, synthesising all of the above in freewheeling fashion. There’s a lot of fun to be had checking the album’s ratios of garage boogie and surf classicism rise, fall and molest each other – at one extreme is the title track, in which flat rock chords and teasing organ give way to agreeably dumbheaded guitar solos; at the other end are ‘Nocturne’ and ‘Zombie Surf Party’, all Californian beach party vibes, deathless tremolo greatness in updated, glowing forms. Occasionally the pendulum swings too far: ‘The Graveyard Shakedown’ gets a little lost in widdly guitar twiddling; more often it hits enjoyable gold like the groovy Morricone moodiness of ‘Maria’ and ‘Los Calaveras’.
At the end is ‘The End’, a rinky dink riff that breezes past cutely. Same with the album really – ‘Singapore Slingers’ unhooks your brain, opens the fridge, hands you a drink and tells you not to worry for a while. You can read an improving book the day after.