Songs for the Pandemic

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You have your Sad Bastard Music playlist, your All-Nighter Playlist, your Daily Bus Ride playlist, your After-Five Overtime playlist, your Aerobics Playlist, your Daily Traffic Anxiety playlist, and so and so. Oftentimes, these playlists are more or less the same, interchangeable, except for the first one. Unless, of course, all your playlists are actually Sad Bastard Music with different names.

Sadly, the pandemic has turned every playlist into a pandemic playlist. No more songs for parties and getting drunk. No more songs for long drives and out-of-towns. Every playlist turned into playlist for making out—not making out as in, y’know, but as in coping, getting by. Playing music has morphed into music therapy — reducing stress and anxieties, helping us cope up with the situation, distracting us from all the bad news, helping us get better sleep at night.

If one can put away all these uncertainties for just three or four minutes, if one can forget all her troubles and all the sickness in the world for a song’s length, man, there’ll be less toxic posts on Facebook (and maybe Twitter), less about chismosas and good for nothing boyfriends and husbands and there will be more cute cats and dogs and memes. See, happy/upbeat/whatever music could help us get rid of (or at least reduce) all the negativity both offline and online and fill the the world with all the positive vibes that we need, make us more calm, relaxed, less angry, and relieved.

Not saying it’s a one-stop solution to whisk away all your worries. But maybe, just maybe, a pandemic playlist is something you need. And if you still doesn’t have one, I’m making a few suggestions below, to help you make your own playlist.

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I guess it’s best that we start with something that could help you expand your mind. And nothing could enlarge your brain faster than a good dose of neo-psychedelia. Something that pierces your brain through the ears and fill your head with deep blue glowing liquid and submerge your brain in it. For beginners, I’d suggest The Flaming LipsClouds Taste Metallic, a neo-psychedelic record filled with beautiful melodic pop music and noise. It’s like The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in a Fusion Dance but also much much weirder, noisier.

Sample lyrics that will surely distract you from whatever it is that’s bothering you? There’s “Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles,” the second cut off the album, with its “Cat killing dogs, pigs eating rats / Every mouth will eat you up the king bug laughs” and “Rubber bullet barn, titty suckin’ calf / Goats and roosters, bees and bugs amoebas!!” The title alone guarantees 100% distraction.

On the next track (“Placebo Headwound”), Wayne Coyne asks, “Where does outer space end? It’s sort of hard to imagine,” and later, “And if God hears all my questions, well how come there’s never an answer? Is it nothing, nothing?” It’s something that could put you in deep thought and make you think that there must be something bigger, more powerful than all this.

There are a lot of wonderfully written lyrics in Clouds Taste Metallic. Aside from those mentioned above, there’s “Lightning Strikes the Postman” and “Brainville.” However, my favorite is that of “Christmas at the Zoo,” where Coyne sings about jailbreaking all the animals in the zoo on Christmas eve. However, all the animals “refused to leave.” Which reminds me of some people I know. Something about getting out of your… y’know… this is getting pretty long already, and we’re just on our first entry, so, no need elaborate. Let’s move to the next.

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Let me take you back to 1992: the year Rage Against the Machine released their eponymous debut. It’s one of the best of the decade and it’s the one with a Vietnamese monk committing self-immolation on its cover. I choose this particular album and not their second (Evil Empire) or Live & Rare because I am in total agreement with the guy who posted something like “RAtM were okay… until they got all political.”

They were a lot better back when they called their album Rage Against the Machine and not Evil Empire, back when they’re singing songs like “Bombtrack” and not making lousy covers like “Fuck Tha Police.” You see, Green Day used to be a really cool pop-punk band until they got all anti-war, anti-Bush with American Idiot. Same case with Rage Against the Machine.

Still, nothing beats RAtM, specially if you’re into physically invigorating music. The music is funky, plenty of inventive guitar riffs, and the songs are full of raw energy. If you haven’t heard this album yet, I’d suggest you first listen to “Killing In the Name.” It’s a kick-ass number. Now, like with most music, you don’t have to take the words literally. “Killing” here doesn’t mean literally killing people. It’s more like killing it, like doing very well at something. So, if you’re doing something at home or at work, you better put this one on. And you’d definitely get all pumped up.

One thing about this band though, is that they seem to only have one sound, distinctive but also kind of same-samey. I’m not saying all their songs sound the same or that their albums sound bad. It’s only that they seemed to have gotten themselves boxed in one corner and they’re left with very limited space to play around.

That is, their music is somewhat one-dimensional. Which reminds me of the government’s response to the pandemic, imposing strict and varying modes of lock-downs, only different in names. It’s all military and police-enforced lock-down, with very little else in terms of healthcare expertise and medical solution. Modified this and enhanced that? How about modified and enhanced targeted mass testing next time?

On top of that, Zack dela Rocha’s “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” repeated ad infinitum at the end of “Killing In the Name” also reminds me of the Secretary of Health’s utter incompetence and I don’t give a fuck attitude. He who didn’t heed the experts’ advice, until it was too late. By not listening to what he’s told, the ugly motherfucker has fucked all of us. Big time. Ugh! We better get going… 

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This one’s still from the 90’s, an album replete with psychedelia, soothing guitar noise and child-like wonder. It’s The Flaming Lips’ Trasmissions from the Satellite Heart. With song titles like “Oh My Pregnant Head (Labia in the Sunlight)” and “Chewin the Apple of My Eye,” infectious melodies and fun lyrics like “Be my head and I’ll be yours,” this is The Flaming Lips album to put on if you want to escape into a wonderful colorful world of psychedelic rock. Once you get a dose of them, I’m sure you’d never want to leave.

If you are unfamiliar with this record and want to skip the “warm up” stage, then I’d recommend that you start with “She Don’t Use Jelly,” the fourth track on the album. Maybe you’ve heard it before, it’s the one with that “She uses Va-ah-ah-seline” in the chorus. It’s one of the bands most popular songs and still their highest charting single to date.

Equally remarkable as the music is the song’s lyrics. The song describes a girl who “thinks of ghosts” and puts Vaseline (i.e., petroleum jelly) on toast, a guy who “goes to shows” and uses magazines to blow his nose, and another girl that “reminds [the track’s narrator] of Cher” and uses tangerines to make her hair orange. Not only that, in the lyrics, the narrator tells that there are other options, more sensible ones than the characters choose to use but these characters won’t. Read the first verse below:

I know a girl who thinks of ghosts
She’ll make ya breakfast
She’ll make ya toast
But she don’t use butter
And she don’t use cheese
She don’t use jelly
Or any of these
She uses Vaseline… Vaseline… Vaseline

I mean, what kind of stupid would do that? And on the second verse, what kind of person would use magazines to blow his nose rather than use tissues or napkins? Magazines might not be as effective as well in trying to control the spread of the virus.

And it’s funny, right? Because it’s stupid. But not as funny and utterly stupid as the people in the government agency who forced motorists to put barriers on their bikes just because. Despite the obvious illogic and all the scientific proofs thrown against it. Well, fuck logic. Fuck science. And fuck all those people who were left with no other choice but to purchase these stupid  barriers because these evil motherfuckers got manure for brains.

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If you’re not much into 90’s rock and prefers a more folk-rock vibe, then Neil Young & Crazy Horse‘s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere might just be your thing. It has the Radiohead-favorite “Cinammon Girl,” “Down By the River,” and the epic 10-minute closer “Cowgirl In the Sand.” I’m sure that instead of thinking of the news about the “Manila Bay Sands” or the creeping unemployment, you’d think about something else or more accurately, someone else: your wife, girlfriend, lover, ex, textmate, pen pal, etc.

A little precaution though: avoid listening to the title track if you can, especially since it’s the second cut on the album and its chorus is one of the catchiest of the lot. It goes “I gotta get away from this day-to-day running around, everybody knows this is nowhere.” Why? Because the title track’s chorus might remind you of our current situation and the government’s plan (or lack thereof) in handling this pandemic.

There’s no use in listening to your pandemic playlist to get away from this “day-to-day running around” and then have one chorus remind you of the very situation you’re trying to escape from. Because “Everybody knows” we’re getting nowhere in this battle, that the government failed, that this government fucked it up, that the government fucked us up, that we’re still far from the end of this tunnel. Okay, not “everybody.” Let’s exclude a certain group of people who are either willfully stupid or still in denial.

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No list would be complete without Pavement. If neo-psychedelia isn’t your thing, maybe you could do well with Wowee Zowee, indie rock’s crowning glory. And if you haven’t heard of Pavement or listen to Wowee Zowee or any of their first three albums, then you’ve never heard indie-rock yet. And the best way to appreciate this album is listen to it from start to end, no shortcuts to the singles, no skipping on fillers or goofy tracks. 

You start with “We Dance,” where Stephen Malkmus declares that there is “no castration fear,” then “Rattled by the Rush,” where Malkmus makes fun of the British people with “There’s no soap in the john, no soap in the john,” then “Blackout”, then “Brinx Job,” which is a reference to the heist movie The Brink’s Job. After that, I’m not gonna tell you what the next songs are and you have to check them out yourself. Here’s the [link] to the album’s track listing. Because that’s how relationships work. I do my part, you also need to do yours. Now go to the link above (in case you haven’t yet) and see it for yourself.

Let me warn you though that Wowee Zowee isn’t as consistent as Pavement’s other albums. Malkmus and co. alternates between different modes of slacker-y: from playful indie-rockers (“Rattled by the Rush”), to lovely guitar duets (“Pueblo,” “Grounded“), to punky goofball rockers (“Flux=Rad,” “Best Friend’s Arm”). It’s a zigzag journey and it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s schizophrenic, actually. And the lyrics are kind of cryptic and usually don’t make a lot of sense. Kind of like the president and his men who vacillate between defeatist attitude, jokey optimism, and the usual gobbledygook i.e., the cadaverous head talking gibberish on late night broadcast on national TV.

Reviews: Introvoys

Back to the Roots (1991) “Calling All Nations” is like a late ’80s pre-internet “Pump Up Kicks” with a cliche positive vibes instead of a quiet kid with a gun. You know, the ’80s was so obsessed with ‘world peace.’ There’s ‘world peace,’ then there’s overt objectification in “Maynila.” The chorus goes “Sa Maynila ka makakahanap ng magagandang babae,” as if beautiful girls were cars, tall buildings, and every thing that screams Manila and not provincial. The whole thing isn’t worth your bandwidth, save for “However Which Way” which is good. C

Breaking New Grounds (1993) For the record, this broke no new grounds. Though this one at least makes a little more sense than them going back to the roots. It was their first outing so, back from where? “Stay” is catchy, like a synth pop Bon Jovi and “Are You Happy” is a passable hair metal ballad that isn’t hairy enough, ballsy or cocky enough. “Will I Ever Survive” is the first true winner here, this album’s “However Which Way,” a pop-metal ballad a la White Lion tho not as epic and memorable as Rockstar’s “Parting Time.” “Di Na Ko Aasa Pa” was also kinda big. C+

Line to Heaven (1994) “Kailanman,” “Line to Heaven,” and whatever’s the big deal with Geneva Cruz and Paco Arespacochaga. Well, there’s clearly no “Kailanman.” Just ask KC Montero. Like the previous albums, this is ripe with cliche, kind of (and I’m probably being generous here) generic sounding songs and a couple of passable radio singles. There’s probably more objectionable content in the lyrics (i.e., Maynila) in all these three albums but fortunately, you won’t care to listen any harder because the music, uh, kinda sucks, way waaay more often than not. C

10 Albums That Didn’t Change My Life

MTV Unplugged in New York. Thor, Norse god of thunder, once said that Asgard was just like Earth — only they didn’t have cable TV. Maybe we lived in Asgard then, ’cause we didn’t have cable as well. We only had either GMA (they used to air taped week-old shows) or the ABS provincial station, depending on the orientation of the antenna mounted Continue reading “10 Albums That Didn’t Change My Life”

Death Sentence (2007)

Fatherly love and sibling rivalry

death-sentence-movie-posterStory-wise, Death Sentence (2007) is just your typical vigilante action movie. The son is murdered by gangsters at a gas station and the father goes after his son’s killers. If you’re expecting any new twist or new ingredients added to this basic story, then this might disappoint. But this isn’t just another vigilante action movie; James Wan’s detour from the horror genre is a potent action-drama. There’s an airtight thrilling chase in a populated business area and parking garage and the movie’s third act boasts a number of impressive, stylishly crafted action set pieces — even if the last sequence borrows heavily from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.

Before the heartbreaking hospital scene at the end of the first act (which had me bawling like child, by the way) is a modestly effective set-up usually uncommon for a film of this sort: a portrait of a happy family—husband, wife, two boys—that’s not without its own little imperfections (there’s a brewing sibling rivalry, the firstborn was the father’s favorite). You somehow expect in advance that their happiness and all this are not going to last. And since you have these likable characters, the bond between them, you also fear for them because you know what’s coming — because that’s how it works in this kind of movies. Someone’s gonna die and someone’s going to avenge their death.

And so the couple never saw their son again. He died on the night he revealed to his dad that he wanted to go to Canada and play Hockey for the rest of his life. Father and son were on their way home and just came from a Hockey game. And his mama never get to him before he died in the hospital. And while the song used in that scene — an emo-pop track from Pilot Speed called “Alright” — took me a bit out of the movie, I thought the scene was powerful enough to be ruined by it.

Death broke every one of them, the father, the mother, the younger brother. When the father learns that there’s a slim chance the killer would stay in jail (there were no other witnesses, no CCTV), he decided to drop the charge and take matters into his own hands.

There’s nothing really new about all this but the movie managed to convincingly portray the father’s descent into the level of the people who perpetrated his son’s murder. The movie shows how stupid his decisions are, how ill-equipped he is against a bunch of criminals and how the people he’s dealing with have really nothing to lose compared to him. It also shows that killing someone isn’t as easy as some movies would like to tell you; it takes its toll mentally, physically, psychologically.

What ultimately made the movie for me, is the part where the father tries to patch things up with his younger son, revealing that he expected him to be like his older brother. And that when the younger son turned out to be not like his firstborn, he was kind of disappointed. And so the younger son gets less attention.

While older movies like this (e.g., Death Wish) can be read as advocating vigilantism, if you look past the stylish and action-overdriven third act, this movie’s undercurrent is no other than the stupidity of it. And there’s one joke in the movie to clearly illustrate that. There is this one scene where, the protagonist, while in his office, talks about risk assessment (he works for an insurance company). For someone who has a lot to lose, it’s the one thing he totally forgets before going after his son’s killer.

Movies I’ve Seen This Year: Aliens, First Love, Starship Troopers, etc.

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Apocalypse Now (1979) is a Vietnam war movie partly inspired by Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God. The story is set in Vietnam and Cambodia but it was shot entirely in the Philippines. I don’t remember there was a dog in Un Chien Andalou (1929), a movie that probably wasn’t even shot in Andalusia. In Lucio Fulci’s The Devil’s Honey (1986), a guy plays and uses his saxophone (sexophone?) to make love to his girlfriend. Sadistically. Sexual Chronicles of a French Family (2012) is exactly what the title says only more pornographic.

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Starship Troopers (1997) is well-made bad B-movie with great special effects and really bad acting (i.e., Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards) you’d think everything wasn’t on purpose. Even Roger Ebert, who noticed the satirical elements and compared the movie to Start Wars (If “Star Wars” is humanist, “Starship Troopers” is totalitarian), thought it wasn’t a satire through and through. He probably wanted to enjoy the movie so bad, wanted to see ‘heroes’ he could cheer and root for.

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Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1982) is about dirt bike racer who was sent back to 1877. It’s dirt bike racer versus horse-riding outlaws. I would have probably enjoyed this more if the synth score wasn’t so loud. Power Rangers (2017) was slightly good enough to waste one late afternoon during the lock-down until the third act, which tried too hard to imitate the crappy fight scenes of the TV series. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) is good straight spy spoof set in Berlin Wall-divided Germany. Cool soundtrack. Even though my favorite electronic group U.N.K.L.E. wasn’t in it, my dear old uncle likes it too.

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Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) is damn near perfect movie. Thanks to The Man from UNCLE, I was reminded this movie exists. Probably one of the best movies I’ve seen recently. I tried watching Lav Diaz’s 8-hour epic Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis (2016) but I stopped after the musician-revolutionary played by Ely Buendia, who I thought was the lead character, died in a skirmish. The Hole in the Ground (2019) is set in a place where there is, literally, a huge hole in the ground and I like it when movies don’t try to mislead you.

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Turn Me On, Dammit! (2011) is probably my favorite coming of age sex comedy. Also, I like exclamation marks in movie titles. I thought Borgman (2013) was about the marginalized organizing themselves and eating the rich but no online review seems to share the same reading as mine. You may like Borgman though, if you liked Parasite (2019). The Gentlemen (2019) is actually about a bunch of drug-dealers and killers. I liked it even though the title is somewhat misleading.

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Aliens (1986) is one of the greatest ever and it’s probably more “feminist” than the crappy Captain Marvel. Adam McKay’s The Other Guys (2010) is The Big Short of buddy cop action comedy. I liked it better than Hell or High Water (2016), another movie about financial institutions being the enemy. Reign of Fire (2002) is curious little flop starring Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey made at the time when CGI in movies wasn’t as common as today. And you can see how the filmmakers dealt with the problem of framing a fight between man and huge fire-breathing dragon.

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The Dragon with the Girl Tattoo is not a real book nor a real movie. But The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) is real and it’s pierced, tattooed, sexy, thrilling and cold. Wait, I can’t believe it. The Dragon with the Girl Tattoo is actually a real book. Takashi Miike’s First Love (2019) is a “wholesome” gangster movie—by Ichi the Killer standards that is. It’s probably my favorite Miike after 13 Assassins. Tulume Alyas Zorro (1983) mixes supernatural elements with the adventures of the famous masked bandit. Panday‘s arch-nemesis Lizardo (Max Alvarado) even had a cameo.

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Je n’écris généralement pas en français mais Panique Au Village (2009) est une excellente animation en stop-motion sur Cowboy, Horse et Indian. Merci Google Traduction. #Jowable is somewhat #watchable; I liked the nunsploitation part. The Blood On Satan’s Claw (1971) is an enjoyable old horror movie even though Satan and his claws were not in the movie. Alain Delon’s clumsy effeminate governor in Zorro (1975) is so fun to watch. Like Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow in those Pirates movies.

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My Ultranationalist Uncle (2018) is true-to-life story about every ultranationalist uncle (I know there are a lot out there) and his student activist niece. One of the best road movies I’ve seen. Wait for the punchline in the end-credits. Budots: The Craze takes you to where it all started, introduces a very different kind of dance scene and maybe, a face of the city you haven’t heard or read about before. The End is Bigger than Love (2014) is a sexy romance zombie apocalypse that has more sex than zombies.

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Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone (2007) made me want to watch the TV series but I’m torn between watching the original series and finishing the first three movies of the Rebuild of Evagelion tetralogy now that the final piece is on the way. The stilted, almost emotionless, transactional-like dialogues in The Killing of A Sacred Deer (2017) made the movie kind of hard to watch, like there’s always something off about it. And yet, when film came to its climax, I thought it was better to have been made that way — distanced, because it would have been more scary if it was more real.

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Atomic Blonde (2017) has some real great fights that are less repetitive than the last John Wick movie. And they’re admirable — the choreography, the execution, the cameraworks. But all this double dealing double agents, M16 vs KGB—this whole enterprise felt bruised, numb, recycled and tired — just like Charlize Theron’s Lorraine at the start of the movie, bathing in a tub full of ice. The lesbian sex was hot tho.

Explaining ‘Andalusian Dog’, ‘Ha Ha Ha’ and other songs from Sticker Happy

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Orange & Melons (circa. 1929)

I already wrote a long-ish one about ‘Kaliwete’ — yes, that song, and no, it’s not what some people thought it was about. Now, it’s time we get into the other songs from Eraserheads’ first and only fifth album. I don’t really feel like writing a long intro so I won’t be dissing IVoS or Ben&Ben fans this time. Continue reading “Explaining ‘Andalusian Dog’, ‘Ha Ha Ha’ and other songs from Sticker Happy”

Rivermaya – Free (2000)

Rivermaya.freeYears before leaking albums online became a trend, a few before online file sharing became the norm, and seven years before Radiohead sold their then new record In Rainbows thru pay-as-you-want at £ 0.00 minimum, Rivermaya self-produced and gave away their fifth album, aptly titled Free, not just online, not just digitally, but also in CD format, given to loyal fans thru mail and at their gigs. Yes, Rivermaya fucking did it first.

Free was released in “The Year Piracy Broke” and mainstream interest in local rock music reached ground zero. Again. Thus, you’d most likely learn about Free on the internet, than catch “Faithless” or “Ambulansya” on the radio—unless by radio, you mean NU107. And just in case you haven’t heard the album yet, do yourself a favor and check “Faithless” and “Ambulansya” on YouTube. The former is driven by Mark Escueta’s pounding rhythm and punctuated by Rico Blanco’s raspy, Kurt Cobain-like scream in the chorus. The latter is a piano-laden dirge about being caught in a causality loop of road accident and traffic jam (“Hindi na tayo gagalaw, hindi na tayo aabante,” Blanco sings on top of a looped ambulance siren).

Outside all the hype (or whether you consider it gimmick, commercial suicide or publicity stunt), Free is an exceptional rock record. It’s really good and by really good, I mean better than any of the first three Rivermaya albums. Imagine taking the best of late ’80s and ’90s guitar-rock (i.e., Nirvana, Pixies, Silkworm), Radiohead’s Kid A, some Chuck Palaniuk and mix them with the solid songwriting of Rico Blanco and Nathan Azarcon. That is, Rivermaya never rocked harder than with “Faithless”, “Serious Offender” and “Again” and they’ve never been as “out there” weird than in “Ambulansya” and “Steady” (Steady/ parang slowly/ na medyo relax/ pero hindi// Parang/ lumang free throw/ ni Bogs Adornado/ noong uso pa ang Afro… Ang gadget/ sarap tapakan/ ang chorus ay tubig/ delay kalangitan… Steady/ ang barbero/ may labahang bago’t/ kamay na pasmado).

Free‘s odd combination of the abrasive/aggressive and weird electronic psychedelia might have been Rivermaya’s response to the burgeoning new metal scene of the late ’90s (i.e., Greyhounds, Slapshock). Only, instead of adding a DJ to the line-up, they went deeper and turn the distortion and weirdness knobs to eleven. The result is more post-hardcore than post-grunge, more rock than hybrid metal.

Or maybe, this is just the natural progression from their last album, which alongside Teeth’s I Was A Teenage Tree and Sandwich’s Grip Stand Throw, is one of the best local guitar-rock albums of from the late ‘90s. Either way, Free contains songs that perfectly captures the raw power of late ’80s early ’90s rock in a bottle and mixed them with some of Radiohead’s early aughts electronic flavors without emulating Pixies or Nirvana or sounding like a Kid A-wannabe.


Just want to share this cool ‘baliktad’ version of “Steady”, the closing track of the album. Kudos to the uploader and whoever did this!

Rivermaya – It’s Not Easy Being Green (1999)

greenThe Rivermaya-Bamboo breakup in ’98 was such a bummer, it was a heartbreaker, that the band’s fourth LP, It’s Not Easy Being Green, features some of Rivermaya’s most personal songs—some about breakup, some about moving on. The album title itself is a reference to a specific song lamenting the state of “being green”, of being ordinary, of disappearing into the background—that without the rockstar vocalist, they’re just these three regular guys.

There’s “Shattered Like” implicitly referencing Bamboo leaving the group, the country-folk “May Kasalanan”, about being left behind, “Bagong Taon”, where Blanco compares his love life to an assortment of fireworks (baby rocket, trumpilyo, lucis), and “Never Been Better”, a song about having moved on or feigning it. All four highlight the album in varying level of cathartic phlebotomy before “Homecoming” closes the album with a teary-eyed “Lover come home, lover come home.”

But Rivermaya (this time just Mark, Nathan and Rico), bemoans “being green” much less than they embrace it. And totally embrace being green they did. As if the band said “Fuck it! We’ll just do what we want to do”, Rivermaya delivered their darnedest best with this album. Never before did a Rivermaya album sound this focused, this consistent. The songs just flow, fly and soar from start to end. Less of that faux experimental shit that littered their previous album (i.e., Atomic Bomb).

While the sad songs hit the sad notes where they need to, stompers like “Grounded Ang Girlfriend Ko”, “Nerbyoso”, and “Sorry” totally rocks. The epic “Bagong Taon”, with guitar pyrotechnics that reminds me of Radiohead’s “Creep” and Bush’s “Swallowed”, is as great as any of the best tracks from Free, Atomic Bomb or Trip.

Then, there’s “Rodeo”, a song about “a song about true love”, with Blanco’s perfectly faux cowboy twang, country-folk beat and honky keys, it’s just perfect. Most likely inspired by Beck’s Odelay (with both Beck and Odelay mentioned in the lyrics), “Rodeo” is album’s ultimate equalizer, balancing the heartbreak and sad songs, with bawdy humor and glee (What sweeter thing could happen to a boy and a girl / we gotta do it like mechanical rabbits from hell, yeah).

Is this album better than Free? Well, actually I won’t mind putting either ahead of the other. Free is more left-of-the-dial, more like In Utero than Nevermind while It’s Not Easy Being Green is more varied, more expansive. It covers more area, it’s more complete, y’know, from A to Zinc. And to these impaired ears, it’s the quintessential Rivermaya record.

Breeder’s Digest No. 6

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Opening an attachment within an attachment within another attachment in Outlook is like going down multiple layers of dreams in Christopher Nolan’s Inception. You click the X button and suddenly you’re back in the real world. Or was it dream level 01? Well, depends if the top is still spinning. Anyway, I’m not saying Inception was really great Continue reading “Breeder’s Digest No. 6”

Midyear Music Rundown

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Was thinking of writing about the songs I’ve been listening to for the last six months. Music recommendation of some sorts. Only that if Kanye has Late Registration, we, here at breathing like karma, have a fresh new segment called Late Recommendations. This is the portion of the site where we recommend new songs which came out maybe a year ago Continue reading “Midyear Music Rundown”

Khruangbin, Narda and… Napalm Death?

Narda‘s Salaguinto’t Salagubang EP will be available on Spotify soon. Their first three EPs are already available there. And if you have nary an idea about this band, maybe you should check their songs. You could start with these: “Meron Ba?” (reportedly recently covered by Sponge Cola on their latest album), “Kusina”, “Tanga”, or “Saan Na?” Continue reading “Khruangbin, Narda and… Napalm Death?”

Breeder’s Digest No. 4

How do you find new music? Me, I find them while searching Google for this particular album cover and one thing leads to another which then leads to another which then leads to another which then—you know this could take me all day, CTRL+C, CTRL+V, until I get sick of it. In short, I ended up with this pretty cover art from Lucid Moon‘s self-titled release. Continue reading “Breeder’s Digest No. 4”

Ranking Your Favorite Pogi Rock Bands Part 2 Or Why We Should All Hate Sam Milby

If this is your first time (here), I’d like to let you know before anything else that I am very very glad and ever so slightly honored to inform you that this is actually an old post. And the only reason I’m re-posting this, is because I thought things couldn’t get any worse (i.e., COVID19, Terror Bill, the stupidity and incompetence). Continue reading “Ranking Your Favorite Pogi Rock Bands Part 2 Or Why We Should All Hate Sam Milby”

On Rob Jara’s Tila (Monsoons)

tilaThe current pandemic, which keeps most of us indoors, gives a new shade of meaning to Rob Jara’s Tila (Monsoons). In real life, we are faced with a virus that’s killed hundreds of thousands all over the world and made us rethink our whole lives over. In the movie, Rob Jara locates his story (maybe) not in a distant future but in an alternate yet familiar present: a Philippines where it’s always raining, where our dry and wet seasons had been reduced to an unending rainy days with varying levels of rainfall throughout the year.

“The rainfall will be kept at Level 3 for the rest of August”, a PAGASA forecast announces on the radio. The sun never comes out, the archipelago always hidden under overcast and nimbus clouds. Like the current pandemic, this fucked-up climate also brought up a new normal: illegal vitamins, expensive bulalo soup, private flood control companies, and maybe, expensive umbrellas. The neverending rain lasted for years and years that there are people who were born without seeing the sun nor experience a sunny day.

Among those are the two main characters in the story: the flood control worker and the call center agent. In one scene, the guy looks up to the sky and asks a co-worker (who’s older than him) what was it like seeing the sun. In another, the call center agent chats with the security guard in the convenience store about how it was before and after the climate changed.

Framed as an unlikely love story, an impending romance after a meet-cute in a convenience store, the movie is also able translate some of our present problems into a (not really) futuristic setting. Like for instance, a college diploma hanging on the guy’s wall tells of underemployment. The company he’s working for is privately owned. Despite the high demand for flood control, there’s a mass layoff near the end of the film. Since it was made in 2014, the movie somehow, predicted a future where “endo” has not ended yet.

Ironically, the flood control worker lives in a house that’s perpetually flooded, sleeps in a bed that more or less doubles as flotation device which may or may not save him from drowning from rainwater while asleep. While call center jobs relatively pays more, there’s a scene where the girl has to work two shifts since her co-worker is going to take a vacation in another country. That her company offers travel packages to other countries “where it’s more fun and sunny” somehow mirrors the gloomy state or lack of job opportunities here as compared overseas.

With limited running time, Tila wasn’t really able to flesh out its will they or won’t they plot—if it’s really that it’s aiming for. But it was able to say a lot. Technically, you’d be impressed on how the filmmakers were able to achieved the movie’s constantly gloomy look. While watching the movie, I thought of how shooting the movie on rainy days must have been a logistic nightmare. It turns out, the rain was actually integrated digitally unto the frames.

Kumuha ka ng Superproxy

A Non-review Review of Mervin Malonzo’s Sawa Ka Na Ba?

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Kung sakali mang hindi n’yo pa nababasa ito, ay ‘wag nang magatubili. Basahin n’yo na ang “Sawa Ka Na Ba?” ni Mervin Malonzo na matutunghayan sa website ng Haliya Publishing. Kung tinatamad ka o sawa ka na ring mag-type sa Google para mag-search, maari lamang na i-click ang text na ito. ‘Yan, maaari mo nang basahin Continue reading “Kumuha ka ng Superproxy”

The Real True Meaning of Eraserheads’ “Kaliwete”

Kurt Cobain, widely known for playing guitars left-handed (like Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney), was actually right-handed and wrote with his right hand.

I’m not really into songs’ lyrics. Not that much. At least not as much as those who make himay-himay the lyrics of their favorite songs. Or like those IV of Spades fans on YouTube. By the way, I’ve already made up my mind. I like the Ben&Ben fans more — those who post their heartbreaking sob stories in the comment section. Continue reading “The Real True Meaning of Eraserheads’ “Kaliwete””

Eraserheads, Marimar and Christmas albums

eraserheads

Maybe Billy Corgan was right. The world is a vampire — sent to drain. Not that humanity being evil or unfair, as per the phrase’s definition on Urban Dictionary, but keeping abreast with the latest news and what’s happening around you, that could really drain you. Like for example back home, we haven’t really flattened the curve yet. Continue reading “Eraserheads, Marimar and Christmas albums”

Narda is back; NU107 returns

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“I’ll send you a postcard from hell, if in case I don’t get well.” That’s the chorus of “Hypochondriac”, the second cut off A Postcard from Narda, the very first EP from one of the best local bands in the last twenty years. A Postcard from Narda came out in 2002, back when getting fresh new music could cost you a leg or an an arm. Continue reading “Narda is back; NU107 returns”

‘Di ba Huwebes ngayon

black cassette tape on top of red and yellow surface

Updates: Tried watching Ang Huling El Bimbo The Musical few days ago. A friend said it was perfect for crying alone, or that I could let it on the background while working from home. So I tried and after a few minutes I started wondering if theater audience are allowed to sing along if they feel like it. And if not, being a huge fan Continue reading “‘Di ba Huwebes ngayon”

Movies: Matangtubig, Your Name, The Whistlers, The Gentlemen

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Matangtubig (Town in a Lake) (2015). The film starts with a heinous crime: two girls were abducted, one raped and murdered, the other ran off and went missing. A local fisherman (Amante Pulido), one of the witnesses, saw the two girls being offered a ride home on the night of the crime. He promptly called the police to report what he Continue reading “Movies: Matangtubig, Your Name, The Whistlers, The Gentlemen”

Movies: Sex and Fury, ‘Tol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Heavy Trip

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Sex and Fury (1973). Was finally able to watch Norifumi Suzuki’s Sex and Fury, one of the most popular example of Pinky Violence, the Japanese equivalent of America’s grindhouse. This is said to be one of inspirations for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Uma Thurman’s Black Mamba versus the Crazy 88 was probably inspired Continue reading “Movies: Sex and Fury, ‘Tol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Heavy Trip”

Reviews: Beabadoobee, The Buildings

Space Cadet EP | beabadoobee | 2019
Imagine if Reese Lansangan listened to Pavement. Filipino-British indie darling Beatrice a.k.a. beabadoobee released a whooping 5 EPs in 2019 (Space Cadet is EP #5) and she did what most Pavement lovers never thought of before (“I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus”). Of course being half-British she wants to see the “Sun More Often” and she says “often” with a “T”—unlike her American English-taught Filipino fans. B

Listen to: I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus

Cell-O-Phane | The Buildings | 2016
This doesn’t deadpan Pavement in the same way Yurei’s screams Nirvana. Maybe because they kept the Pavement signifiers on the periphery (the Bob Nastanovich narration buried near the end of “Sue Me Jack” is echoed in the opening track, the obvious “Shady Lane” MTV references in that “Lucid Sister” music video). And if you listen to them looking for that Pavement influence, which is somewhat hard to parse, don’t think Slanted & Enchanted or Brighten the Corners. Maybe Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain—but only because their best songs are infectiously melodic (“Different Shades of Blue”, “Lucid Sister”) and sometimes has the side effect of sounding like The Breeders (“Museum Tower”), which isn’t bad at all. Some of Wowee Zowee‘s laid back country vibes are here but that’s probably because they are indie-folk darlings Ourselves the Elves’ more indie-rock leaning sister band. The surest point of reference then would be Spiral Stairs’ “Painted Soldiers” and its music video where Nina Gordon and Louise Post took over Pavement after the dissolution of the band. A-

Listen to: Different Shades of Blue

Movies: Unli Life, Dormitoryo, Blue Bustamante, Brownout sa Neighborhood Namin That Day

Here are some of the movies I watched during this on-going lock down. Some of them you can stream for free (links provided) courtesy of TBA Studios, CinemaOne Originals and the folks of Lockdown Cinema Club (you can check their FB page, they have a lot of short films and they’re accepting donations for film industry workers affected by the lockdown). Jerrold Tarog’s Bliss is also available on YouTube though there’s a glitch (there’s no audio near the end of the movie). Other notable movies available for streaming are Matangtubig, Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cantupay and Khavn dela Cruz‘s Alipato.

Unli-Life-47

Continue reading “Movies: Unli Life, Dormitoryo, Blue Bustamante, Brownout sa Neighborhood Namin That Day”

Reviews: Parokya ni Edgar

Khangkhungkherrnitz | Parokya Ni Edgar | 1996
TVJ’s Tough Hits is the blueprint they patterned this from. And anything by Yoyoy Villame. And since they’re three heads harder than TVJ, the goofs are sandwiched between originals and parodies come in full form. Radiohead’s first hit became “Trip”, a tale about addiction to siopao made in Shaolin House, one from The Clash became “The Crush”, and “Tatlong Araw” was supposedly borrowed from Yano’s “Mc Jo”. The originals are no less catchy and memorable (“Buloy”, “Maniwala Ka Sana”). If Stephen Malkmus and Spiral Stairs once made up a story about getting into a fight while auditioning for Beverly Hills, 90210, PNE has a song about trying it out for the Tuesday Edition of Kuya Germs’ That’s Entertainment. Up to this day, I’m still apprehensive about playing “Lutong Bahay” really loud, that my neighbors—elderly folks, mothers, from Batangas and elsewhere—would find the play on cuss words and innuendos offensive, disrespectful. That Darius Semana’s mother (they’re from Lipa Batangas) is probably cool with and even proud of it, I find a bit comforting. Still, a song about eating your girlfriend’s mother’s special pancake in the morning isn’t something your girlfriend and her mother would probably want to hear. A-

 

Buruguduystuntugudunstuy | Parokya Ni Edgar | 1997
It’s slightly less funny the second time around but you can always have a second helping. This has better packaging than the first. And I like it that they’re superheroes this time (probably a reference to Wilce Portacio’s work on Rivermaya’s Trip) and Chito Miranda’s superpowers is that of a metro aide. And much better title too—it sounds like a drum roll minus the cymbal crash at the end. With parodies reduced from three to one (“Alimango”, based on Pearl Jam’s “Animal”) one expects more of their own (“Sayang”, “Sampip”). Not all fillers are killers. Not all non-fillers are killers. But give ’em props for adding “tubal” and “walanjo” in the wiktionary and for giving their most earnest straight-faced ode to the bird without being too cocky or dicky about it. Have to thank them for salvaging “Harana” too, even though it is probably that one song that opened the doors to the sappy acoustic ballads that took over after (i.e., Aiza Seguerra, Paolo Santos). A- 

 

Gulong Itlog Gulong | Parokya Ni Edgar |1999
Their stab at sincerity is probably as worthwhile as their funniest gag yet, the non-song, non-filler “Cobra Bird”. Their parody of Cake’s cover of Gloria Gaynor’s disco hit is a winner but the non-killer fillers outnumber the killer non-fillers (“Saan Man Patungo”, “Inuman Na”). **

 

Bigotilyo | Parokya Ni Edgar | 2003
I remember listening to this on a bootleg tape a friend gave me, which was a bit weird at the time when pirated CDs come as cheap as 3-in-1 briefs from the baratilyo. IIRC this cassette has slightly different track sequence. It starts with “Mr. Suave”, then “The Yes Yes Show”, and so on. And I listened to this tape for weeks on end and was surprised to see a different track listing when I finally saw the CD. Surprisingly, there are only two fillers, which says a lot for a band who could probably put out a greatest hits fillers compilation. The parodies aren’t anywhere near as good as the old ones (“Chikinini”, parody of Yano’s “Banana Asshole, Suck on the pie Yo!” is OK, “Katawan”, possibly among their worst) but they have more songs than ever! And they’re all effing good (“Alumni Homecoming”, “Choco Latte”). Heck, even the deep cuts are hellishly gewd (“Absorbing Man”, “Ted Hannah”). And while their songs have always been varied as their antics (this has parodies of kundiman, hip-hop, bossanova, there’s even a Led Zeppelin-esque guitar solos near the end of Side A) this is slightly more varied than the usual. PNE shows noticeable growth and maturity here. That they’re sporting fake mustaches on the cover might be the most ingenious joke they ever thought up, or maybe, just pure coincidence. A  

Reviews: Hopia Mani Popcorn, Awit Ni Sampaguita

Bagong Banda… Awit Ni Sampaguita | Various Artists | 2008
Either you’re a curious Sampaguita fan or you just want to get that rare Sugar Hiccup or Session Road track that isn’t on any of their albums. This is for completists only. Covering Sampaguita is like doing The Beatles, except you don’t have tons of songs to choose from. You either get lucky in the lottery or try your very best not to fail. Most of these bands bungled it, with Paramita’s “Bongahan” probably the biggest dud. Little known band Lokal does a decent take on minor hit “Mahilig”. You could say Sugar Hiccup and Paraluman just got lucky “Tao” and “Ikaw Pa Rin” got assigned to them. Session Road, not so much. But thanks to Hannah Romawac, their cover of “Nosi Balasi” doesn’t suck. C

 

Hopia Mani Popcorn | Various Artists |2006
Not every artist could cover a Rico J. Puno hit and get away with it like Lourd De Veyra and Radioactive Sago did—the murderously drunk funny videoke sing-along “Kapalaran”. Didn’t like Kitchie Nadal’s “TL Ako Sa’Yo” when this came out. It actually sounds a LOT better now. Maybe it was ahead of its time. DRT’s hard-rock version of “Tao” is better than Sugar Hiccup’s version on that other tribute album. And props to Kapatid for shining a light on another classic (“Hanggang Magdamag”) and the usually forgotten funk bands of the ’70s (The Advisors, Soul Jugglers). I could do without Rocksteddy (“No Touch”), 6cyclemind (“Bonggahan”), Protein Shake (“Macho Gwapito”), and Sound’s soulless attempt at Rey Valera’s “Ako Si Superman”. Mayonnaise and Join the Club? They’re just OK. Soapdish’ sped-up version of Rey Valera/Rico J. Puno/Sharon Cuneta classic? Not bad. Up Dharma Down’s “Bitin Sa’Yo” is a miss. Medyo bitin. B+

 

Hopia Mani Popcorn 2 | Various Artists |2008
This has a better lineup than the first (no 6cyclemind, no Protein Shake). Giniling Festival have always been much much more fun than Rocksteddy. Surprise, surprise! Melany is actually fronted by a guy and they did a decent Soapdish-like job with “Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal”, a welcome alternative to the Ogie Alcasid remake. Brownman Revival’s “Binibini”? Way better than Janno Gibbs’. Pedicab’s “Awitin Mo…” is just OK but Diego Mapa making fun of his kuya (Jao Mapa), funny. Highlights? Kiko Machine’s piano ballad version of “Tayong Dalawa”, Juan Pablo Dream’s mod-ified “Bato Sa Buhangin”, Swissy’s minimalist take on another Cinderella hit. There’s also Imago. Except for that raised eyebrow, Aia de Leon perfectly updates the Dina Bonievie classic (“Bakit Ba Ganyan”). Color It Red? Chilitees? They’re fine. Cueshe? Again, not bad. Session Road’s “Kung Kailangan Mo Ako” doesn’t totally work tho. A- 

RSP artwork from this site.

Reviews: Juan Karlos, Unique

Pangalan | Unique Salonga | 2020
Shorter and more consistent than his debut with a few hooks poking through (“Bukod-Tangi”). None of the new songs are as memorable as “Ozone” (probably still his best, though I find it a bit exploitative and insensitive when I think about the families and victims of the tragedy). And no, “Delubyo” is neither dark nor disturbing. It’s a sound collage and anyone can make such. Eight cuts, six songs—that’s just slightly more than half of what’s in his debut. That’s good if it means we get less fillers and less of Unique telling us how the IVoS management robbed him of royalties (But where’s my money / Don’t waste my time) or why he left the group. But not really. Turns out, he can’t stop singing about himself (“Bukod-Tangi”, “Pahinga”), can’t stop bragging about, can’t stop trash-talking like he’s up against you-know-who in a FlipTop battle (“Dambuhala”, “Mga Katulad Mo”). Either he’s excessively self absorbed or he’s still hurting. Maybe both. Writing songs to exorcise his own demons? Maybe. C+

 

“Buwan” | Juan Karlos | 2018
Almost there but not quite. Either it makes you push replay or it leaves you wanting. I’d say it’s the latter. There’s enough anguish in Labajo’s singing but his lyrics needed work (“Halina tayo’s humiga”). Sure, he’s in love. Truly? Maybe. Madly? Yes. Deeply? Not, if you read the lyrics. And what’s with the moon? Is he going crazy? A lunatic? Is he gonna turn into a werewolf? More like he’s just plain horny.

 

Diwa | Juan Karlos | 2020
The refrain of “Sampaguita” sounds a bit odd the first time but it works, Gloc-9 makes it work. Gloc-9 paints a heartbreaking picture of OFW life and then somewhat ruins the song in the third verse with that ‘tragic’ ending. As if people having no choice but to work overseas isn’t tragic enough. As if unemployment and underemployment should be accepted as the norm. Don’t like it when this JK Labajo dude puts extra kinks to his singing. It pulls attention to itself and not in a good way. I’m talking about some Jeff Buckley-ish kinks here—some of them are, not all. All the ten cuts here sounds warm, live, sweaty and real, especially after listening to Unique’s self-indulgent, cold electro-psychedelia. Like Unique, JK Labajo has good pipes. Maybe Unique should take his cue from JK and get himself a backing band. In return, he could help JK fix some of his lyrics. Maybe Unique could also learn from JK how to write about things other than himself. Find himself someone/something to love, lust for or think about other than fame. B-